Can Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers Impact Children’s Teeth?

It’s perfectly normal and natural for children to suck their thumbs and use pacifiers. When their baby and permanent teeth begin to come in, the cute habit can have detrimental effects on their jaws and tooth formation.

Why Children Suck Their Thumbs

It’s something most babies do at some point in their young life. They pop their thumb or other finger in their mouth and start sucking. For some, it’s a mild suction that soothes and for others it seems like their hoovering with an industrial vacuum cleaner.

Moms and dads learn early that a pacifier can often calm a fussy baby and most have multiples on hand in case of the occasional floor drop. The act is soothing to babies and makes them feel safe. They’re born with an innate need to suckle and nothing makes a baby go to sleep faster. As they grow, it can be hard to beat the habit, but it’s imperative for proper tooth alignment.

Thumb sucking and Tooth Problems

When the teeth begin to form, the act of thumb sucking can cause misalignment of teeth and change the roof of the mouth. For example, a normal bite has the upper teeth overlap the bottom teeth. Thumb sucking can interfere with jaw growth and tooth eruptions, leading to development of an open bite where the teeth don’t overlap. They can also develop an overbite or an underbite.

It can impact jaw position, causing a lisp or other speech issue and make the roof of the mouth more sensitive. Children usually wean themselves from the habit by the time they reach school age, but if not, then you should intervene before it creates costly dental issues.

Breaking the Habit

Parents may be reticent to stop the habit because they know how much their child enjoys it and it makes life a little easier for them. The habit helps them get to sleep and when you’re dealing with a young child or toddler, it can be easy to take any break you can.

It’s important to stop the habit despite this and here are a few ways you can help move the process along. Don’t punish or nag your children to stop the habit. It’s a soothing mechanism and that will just cause them stress, which reinforces the habit.

If your child is a little older, then talk to them about the habit and what can happen. Tell them to try their best to stop it and encourage or reward them for not doing it. If these steps don’t work, then you may have to take more direct action such as placing socks over their hands to keep them from sucking their thumbs or asking your dentist about a bitter tasting medication.

If your child has problems sucking their thumb or pacifier, then contact For a Lifetime of Smiles and let Dr. Ed and his staff work out a program with you and make sure no damage has already been done.

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