Young children have many ways to soothe themselves as they develop. Using pacifiers and thumbsucking are two ways that are most common. Although this is harmless when they are babies, after their teeth come in, sucking can present problems for teeth and mouth. As a family dental practice, we care about the health of your whole family. If you have a child who soothes themselves in this way, we’d like to let you know some information about what can happen if this habit persists.
Thumbsucking & Dental Problems
Thumbsucking and pacifiers can affect the growth of teeth, causing misalignments and malocclusions. If a child just allows the thumb to passively rest in the mouth for comfort, these problems are less likely to occur. If they use a lot of suction, problems may arise with not only the teeth, but may also change the shape of the roof of the mouth.
What to Do
Although most children stop sucking thumbs and pacifiers between ages 2-4, it can be a hard habit for some to break. You certainly want to allow your child to soothe themselves, but if it’s becoming a long-term problem, we have some suggestions.
- Always offer words of praise and encouragement when they choose to forgo thumb or pacifier.
- Try involving your child in quitting. Let them choose how and when they’d like to stop or cut down on thumbsucking.
- Tell us if you’re concerned. We will also talk to your child and teach them about how stopping will help their teeth grow properly.
- Recognize that the problem comes from the need to self-soothe. Your child might struggle with anxiety. Help by establishing a predictable bed time routine that includes a favorite stuffed animal or a night light.
Is thumb-sucking a problem for your child? Consult with our expert team.