Is Your Child’s Thumb Sucking or Pacifier Ruining Their Teeth?

Health Histories

Dental health is one area that parents may not stay attuned with when it comes to babies and infants. Topics of particular concern include the use of pacifiers and thumb sucking to help soothe upset babies, infants and kids. The issue may not be the use of these measures as aids so much as the crutch they may become and the negative impact on a child’s teeth through adulthood.

Babies Are Born With the Sucking Instinct

After birth, it doesn’t typically take long for a baby to start sucking – it’s one of the most primal instinct. It’s the way they eat for the first year of their lives, and not doing it spells trouble. Sucking is soothing to babies, newborns in particular, and as such, birthing centers may keep an abundant supply of pacifiers on hand. These are not only encouraged for calming but also to promote sucking. Some babies find their hand relatively quickly. Parents of newborns might prefer finger sucking simply due to convenience.

Thumbs and Pacifier Soothing Needs To End at Some Point

As babies grow into infants and toddlers, the urge to suck may start to wind down. They’ve probably transitioned from bottles to sippy cups and solids. However, if a child has used a finger or pacifier to sooth, that habit may still be going strong. It is about this time – before your child enters preschool – that you want to start trying to get them to give up the habit. Up until this point, there probably has not been any harmful damage or effects done to the teeth and mouth, but the longer they continue, not only with the damage gets worse, but so will the ability to easily ween them.

Effects of Long-Term Soother Use

Take a look at some of the ways thumb sucking, and pacifiers can damage teeth if they are used past preschool age:

  • The jaw can reposition itself incorrectly, and a lisp may develop
  • The introduction of thousands of germs through the mouth increases as children start attending preschool
  • The teeth start moving and bite issues form (overbite and underbite) resulting in expensive repositioning down the road
  • Gums and the roof of the mouth may become more sensitive and painful

The list above is not inclusive of all the harm this habit can cause.

Breaking the habit sooner rather than later is crucial in avoiding permanent damage. Ask your child’s dentist in San Clemente, CA if there is anything they can recommend to help.

Thanks to John Redmond Orthodontics for their insight into dental care and thumb sucking.