The Consequences of Thumb Sucking and Extended Pacifier Use in Children

For infants and children, sucking is a natural soothing reflex to relax and calm themselves. However, young children who are using a pacifier longer than necessary or who tend to self-sooth with thumb sucking may be dealing with a future of dental problems.

How does thumb sucking and pacifier use affect my child’s teeth?

Many parents who bring their children to a pediatric dentist in the Pittsford, NY area often ask our dental professionals about the results of continual thumb sucking and pacifier use into the toddler years. After the primary teeth erupt in the mouth, the sucking of the thumbs or pacifiers can cause misalignment that may contribute to problems when the permanent teeth come through. This also greatly varies depending on the intensity of a child’s sucking. If the child is only resting their thumbs in the mouth when sleeping, they may have less problems with their dental health than those who suck more vigorously. Aggressive thumb suckers may also experience problems with their baby teeth that can become a continued problem when their permanent teeth arrive. For children who continue sucking their thumb well into their later years, severe misalignment of the teeth can occur.

How can I help my child stop sucking their thumb or using their pacifier?

When it comes to pacifiers, many parents are able to easily ween their child from the pacifier by slowly using them less and less to soothe their children. They may eliminate them entirely during the day and only allow them during naps and bedtime. After successfully eliminating daytime pacifier use, parents can ween their children by removing the pacifier from the child’s mouth as soon as they fall asleep, eventually stopping pacifier use altogether.

For thumb suckers, elimination may be more difficult as the thumbs are often so readily available for a child to turn to. Children do well with praise for not sucking their thumb, or by finding other self-soothing methods during naptime and bedtime such as the use of a stuffed animal or blanket to ease anxieties. As children get older, they will better understand the consequences of thumb sucking when they visit their dentist and learn about what can happen to their teeth if they don’t stop this habit.

Schedule your child’s dental visit with DeStefano Dentistry today!

Dr. Thomas J. Destefano and his professional staff are dedicated to helping parents ensure their children develop healthy, beautiful smiles. If you are interested in speaking with a pediatric team about your child’s oral health and wellness, we welcome you to book a consultation with DeStefano Dentistry by speaking to our front office team at (585) 248-2383. Pittsford, NY area parents can discuss their child’s needs at our facility, conveniently located at 600 Kreag Rd.

Posted in: Pediatric Dentistry

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