Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits

Many parents these days have questions and concerns regarding their children’s thumb sucking or pacifier habit. Although there are many responses to these questions, it’s always best to address them on a case by case basis with your pediatric dentist after your child has had a routine dental examination. Nevertheless, it may be beneficial to some parents to address a number of these compelling questions here on our blog.

3 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits

  • At what age should these habits be addressed and/or corrected?
  • Are these habits going to negatively affect my child’s teeth or soft palate?
  • Can thumb sucking impair my child’s speech development?

When addressing your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier habit, it’s good to remember that these habits often provide a soothing and calming effect for your child and should be addressed in a positive and non-confrontational manner. It’s well known that the instinct to suck is natural in infants and this habit often continues as they mature into toddlers. However, many children discontinue the thumb sucking or pacifier habit on their own around age three, and many others quit the habit once they begin interacting more with children their own age. Some pediatric dentists recommend addressing the issue of thumb sucking or pacifier use if the habit continues beyond the age of three, or if there are developmental or health concerns in regard to the habit. Discussing your child’s particular thumb sucking or pacifier issues with your child’s pediatrician as well as their pediatric dentist may prove most beneficial for advice and recommendations. Additionally, if your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier habit appears to be disrupting a healthy development of their teeth and soft palate, as well as their speech development, there are treatments available that may be recommended to help you gently wean your child from the habit.

The effect of a thumb sucking or pacifier habit on your child’s teeth depends on many factors. Some of these factors include: how often your child sucks their thumb, how long your child has had the habit, and how aggressively your child sucks their thumb. All of these factors may have an effect on your child’s teeth and soft palate development, and in some cases, their speech development. Again, if you have any concerns regarding these issues, your pediatric dentist can be a great resource for answers regarding your child’s oral habits and development.

Always remember, your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier habit is most likely a natural stress reliever to them, and are best addressed in a stress-free manner. Some parents find it beneficial to discuss with their children the importance of maintaining good oral health habits so their permanent teeth can come in healthier and straighter. Others parents find that using positive reinforcement and rewarding their children for reducing and eventually quitting their habits can prove successful. And, of course, always remember that your pediatric dentist is available to help provide counsel regarding these issues.

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