Pacifiers, Thumbs and Your Baby’s Teeth
Are you concerned when your child sucks his or her thumb or cries for a pacifier? Sucking on fingers and other objects is a perfectly normal habit that provides babies with a sense of security and a way to learn about the world. However, when continued for too long, thumb- or pacifier-sucking can have a negative effect on the child’s dental health, particularly the alignment of the front teeth, as well as the formation of the jaw and the bones that support teeth.
Most babies outgrow the thumb or pacifier habit on their own, usually between the ages of 2 and 4, but some do not. Experts disagree about how long is too long to continue sucking and how early is too early to discourage it, because the action is a natural source of comfort to the child. Some believe that a child can safely suck a thumb or pacifier until school-age or when the permanent teeth start to come in at around age 6. Others argue that persistent sucking after age 2 poses a greater risk for developing protruding front teeth and a misaligned bite (the point at which the top and bottom teeth meet).
Sorting out these conflicting opinions can be confusing for parents, but we can help. Dr. Jared can monitor your child’s developing teeth and jaw and help you to determine whether an intervention is necessary to curtail your child’s habit.
We can also suggest ways to wean your child from sucking. A surprisingly successful tactic is to simply tell the child that his or her new teeth may not come in straight and then show your child photos of permanent teeth that did and did not form properly.
Also effective is a gradual withdrawal technique that limits sucking to certain times of the day, increasing the restricted periods until the habit is completely eliminated. Substituting a soft toy or another comfort object often helps.
These methods are likely to be more effective with children who use pacifiers. Limiting access to a pacifier is easier than restricting the use of a readily available thumb. If these tactics prove ineffective, we may recommend a mouth appliance that discourages thumb-sucking by interfering with the action.
If you have a child who is a persistent thumb- or pacifier-sucker, knowing when to intervene can be critical. We can provide the support and expertise you need to ease the weaning process and avoid trauma for your child.
Give us a call at 509-891-7070 to schedule today!