Pacifier or Finger or Thumb: Does It Matter?
Whether it’s a finger, thumb or pacifier, the comfort object your baby sucks allows him or her to self-soothe and even learn about the world in some basic ways. In fact, babies even suck their thumbs or fingers before birth. After birth, most babies who enjoy sucking between feedings demonstrate a preference for pacifier or thumb or finger. In terms of dental development, all three affect (or don’t affect) oral structures equally.
If you’re worried about your child’s sucking habit, remember―your child won’t leave for college with a pacifier in his or her mouth. Ideally, children stop their sucking habit—on their own or with help—by the time the permanent teeth begin emerging, usually around age 6. Some experts believe that the practice should be addressed when a child is 3 years old; others suggest age 4 or even 5.
Knowing that the habit will have to stop—or be stopped—someday, some parents think (logically): It’s easier to rid a home of pacifiers than it is to rid a child of his or her fingers and thumbs, so they try to steer their sucking infant toward pacifiers from the beginning. They figure that will leave their children without options when it’s time to quit, having long ago dismissed the possibility of their fingers or thumbs as an attractive replacement.
Other pros and cons? Both pacifiers and hands can be full of germs, and those organisms can end up in your child’s mouth. But both pacifiers and hands can be washed as often as necessary. Pacifier use may lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); it may, however, increase the risk of ear infections.
Again, as long as the practice stops before the permanent teeth start coming in, sucking habits will most likely have no effect on your child’s teeth, mouth or jaw. If your preschooler is old enough to begin to comprehend consequences, though, all of us can talk together at your next visit to KiDDS Dental about why giving up the pacifier, thumb or finger as soon as possible would be a good idea.
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