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February 5, 2021
Thumb-sucking and Pacifiers: Will They Damage Your Child’s Teeth?  

Did you know that young children sucking on their fingers, pacifiers, and objects is normal developmental behavior which often begins in the womb? These behaviors provide children with a sense of security and a way to make contact with and learn about, the world. However, these behaviors can become destructive in the growth and development of your child’s teeth and jaws if allowed to continue over a long period of time.  

Most children stop nonnutritive sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. If you and your child’s dentist are unable to prevent destructive sucking habits around the age of three, your little one’s upper front teeth may begin tipping towards their lip or not come in properly. It can also affect the way their teeth bite together and the growth of their jaws.

If your child is struggling to quit their thumb-sucking or pacifier habit, you should consider the following tips:  

·       Praise is Key – Praise your child when they are not sucking their thumb or pacifier. Sucking behaviors are often a coping mechanism for anxiety and insecurity. Praising your child in situations which make them uncomfortable will encourage alternative healthy coping mechanisms that will be helpful to your child for the rest of their life.

·       Use Reminders – Adults know how hard it is to break habits, because we often do them without thinking. It is the same for a child who is working towards eliminating their thumb-sucking habit. By using a physical reminder – like a bandage on a thumb during the day, or a sock over their hand at night – it can help alert your child to their habit and remind them to try a different coping mechanism in that moment.

·       Knowledge is Power – Empower your child to actively participate and understand why it’s time to replace their thumb-sucking or pacifier habit with something else by explaining why it’s important to stop those behaviors when they reach a certain age. Their pediatric dentist can help explain to them why it is important to stop and how their oral health will be affected in terms they can easily understand. 

Thumb-sucking and pacifier use is an important milestone in your child’s development, but it does need to end before it becomes destructive – and some kids need help stopping these behaviors.

Pediatric dentists who specialize in working with children and creating a kid-friendly dental office are a great resource if you are struggling to ween your child off their habit. These specialists are also a great partner when setting children up for dental health success through preventative care in the office and at home. Remember that your child should make their first visit to the dentist by their first birthday and no later than six months after their first tooth appears, whichever comes first. Even though your child’s permanent teeth won’t make an appearance until the age of size, it’s important to being regular dental visits, brush their teeth twice a day and floss once a day at an early age.

You can find a pediatric dentist using the Delta Dental of Washington “Find a Dentist” tool. For additional pediatric dental health tips, visit our Parent Resources page and the Delta Dental of Washington blog



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