Changing Habits

Thumb Sucking & Pacifiers

All children will use a pacifier, suck their thumb, or both at some point in their infancy or childhood. It is a newborn’s reflexive response to want to suck. That is how they get nourishment, and it is comforting to them. Toddlers use it as a transition from clinging to their parents. No matter how you look at thumb sucking, it is considered a natural thing.

Why it is of concern to oral health

Dental professionals agree that intense or extended thumb and pacifier sucking can affect the shape of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. Generally, pacifiers are considered to be much less of a problem than thumb sucking but can still cause problems.

When to change these habits

It is not necessary to try to force a baby to stop sucking their thumb from the first time they do it. As discussed above, this is a natural reflex, and babies should be allowed the comfort of their thumb or pacifier.

Our concern begins when this habit continues on into later stages of childhood. When a toddler who is three years old is still sucking their thumb consistently, it is time to begin noticing the frequency of the habit and determining how best to taper this habit over the next few years. The age of five is considered the deadline for when children should stop sucking their thumb altogether. This is the time when adult teeth are forming and will soon erupt into the mouth, and it is also a transition time for your child emotionally. They will soon be at school and away from home, their cognitive level will change, and they will be involved more with their peers.

How to change these habits

There are many different philosophies on what is the best way to encourage a child to stop sucking his/her thumb or relinquish his/her pacifier. Ideas include:

  • Putting a band aid on their thumb
  • Painting something that tastes bad on the thumb or pacifier
  • Cover the hand with a sock
  • Rewarding them for days or nights when they do not initiate the habit

The important thing is to find something that works for your child.

Recent & Related

White Spots

White Spots

Sometimes teeth have discolorations that are not darker, but actually whiter than the rest of the tooth. Small white spots called fluorosis often develop on children’s baby and adult teeth. Fluoride is found in most city water as well as in many dental...

read more
Enamel Appearance

Enamel Appearance

You may wonder about the color of your baby’s teeth. Enamel is the outer layer of our teeth. It is the hardest part of the tooth, and also the layer that provides most of the color of the tooth. Your baby’s teeth do not have to be perfectly bright white in order to be...

read more
Teething

Teething

Teething is the process of primary (baby) teeth pushing through the gums into a child’s mouth. It is a natural event that every baby goes through, and it may be painful for your baby. The average age for the first set of teeth to arrive is around six months, but...

read more

Schedule an Appointment

***If your appointment was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, we will be reaching out soon to reschedule***

Schedule an appointment with us by calling (616) 949-0230.