Are Thumbsucking And Pacifier Habits Harmful For A Child’s Teeth?
- April 5th, 2017
- Harmful Habits
Parents often question whether their child’s thumbsucking habits or pacifer use can harm their teeth. Infants actually begin sucking on their fingers in the womb – it is a reflex that comes very naturally. Ultimately, both infants and young children suck on their thumbs and use pacifiers as a source of comfort and security. They may also engage in this thumbsucking before sleep.
Can Thumbsucking and Pacifier Use Harm A Child’s Teeth?
In short, thumbsucking and pacifier habits are only problematic if they last for a long time. At that point, yes, it can be harmful to not only your child’s teeth but also their mouth in general. It can affect the way the mouth grows, for example, as well as the way the teeth are aligned. Additionally, this habit can also cause changes to the roof of the mouth.
These problems are particularly pronounced in children who suck their thumb quite vigirously. In fact, aggressive thumbsuckers (for example, if a popping sound can be heard when the child removes his or her finger from the mouth) can even experience problems with their baby teeth. Children who simply place their fingers in their mouth may experience less of the above issues.
Pacifiers affect the mouth and teeth in much the same way that thumbsucking does. The difference between thumbsucking and pacifers, however, is that often it is easier to get a child to stop using pacifiers than it is to get them to stop sucking their thumb.
In general, children often stop thumbsucking on their own between the ages of 2 and 4 at the latest. After the age of three or four, however, when thumbsucking becomes problematic, parents should take proactive steps to prevent their child from thumbsucking.
How to Stop Your Child From Thumbsucking:
- Take A Positive Approach
Instead of scolding your child for thumbsucking, use positive reinforcement. In other words, offer positive words of encouragement when your child doesn’t suck his or her thumb. You may want to even reward your child when they abstain from the behaviour under particularly stressful times.
- Address the Underlying Cause of the Thumbsucking
Children often suck their thumbs in times of discomfort and anxiety. As such, it is important to address the underlying cause of your child’s anxiety and to present them with alternative ways to comfort themselves.
- Talk to Your Dentist
If thumbsucking persists after the ages of three or four, it is important to talk to your child’s dentist. He or she will be able to offer alternative forms of treatment, from a mouth appliance to medication.
Smile Town is dedicated to effectively treating all children and making your child’s dental experience positive and fun. If your child is currently struggling with thumbsucking, we would be happy to address your concerns. Contact us here.