Thumb-sucking, Pacifiers, and How They Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth

Thumb sucking and pacifiers are probably the bane of any parent’s existence at one time or another. These habits, though incredibly useful to soothe a fussy baby or toddler eventually become a worry for most parents concerned about their child’s dental health. As child of 1-2 years old, these coping skills shouldn’t be worried about too greatly. However, when the ages of 3 or 4 are reached and the habit is still in full swing, some harm may be done to development of the child’s teeth, jaw and mouth. The sucking motion eventually narrows the upper jaw due to pressure being applied to the sides and soft palate often resulting in the need for braces or can potentially cause speech problems.

Parents are always wondering what are some tricks to help stop a child who sucks his thumb or takes a pacifier so here are a couple tips and tricks for both:

Thumb sucking:

  1. Try to limit the time your child is sucking their thumb to only bedtime or naptime. This helps give them the day time hours where they will eventually learn thumb sucking is only for bedtime.
  2. Help your child understand that when they’re ready to stop sucking their thumb, you will be there to support them. This can really help empower a child to stop the habit.
  3. Come up with creative methods to help the child understand that they are growing every day and eventually won’t need to suck their thumb anymore.

 

Pacifier use:

  1. Taking the pacifier away earlier is always better. If you notice that your baby is not actively sucking on their pacifier or needing it too much as night, feel free to just take it away. Limiting their access will avoid difficult to break habit forming later on.
  2. Going cold turkey can also be an option. Many parents designate a special day, such as a birthday or vacation, where they tell the child before hand that they won’t have the pacifier after that. Don’t steal it away without any thought, but help the child understand the scenario then stick to your plan.
  3. Inventing a “binky fairy” or someone the pacifier needs to be given to is another excellent way. It can give your child a fun experience if they’re giving it away in exchange for a dollar, Christmas gifts or even to a new baby. It also helps explain where the pacifier went and why. When they may ask about it later on, they will remember the story or event and won’t feel surprised or confused.

All of these different methods have been used by countless parents countless times. Weaning your child off of a habit such as thumb sucking or a pacifier can be a lengthy process or a short one. Every child is different. Some methods will work for one and completely not work for another. Just pick a plan as the parents, discuss it with the child and then stick to the plan so no one gets caught off guard or confused.