To Schedule An Appointment


Will Thumb Sucking or Using a Pacifier Hurt My Child’s Teeth?


Will Thumb Sucking or Using a Pacifier Hurt My Child's Teeth?

At Smile Explorers Pediatric Dentistry, we’re often asked by concerned parents if thumb sucking or pacifier use are harmful to their child’s teeth. While most children outgrow these behaviors long before they can cause any long-term problems, prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can pose an oral health risk. The question is, when should you intervene?

Why Do Children Suck Thumbs or Pacifiers?

Sucking is a natural reflex that helps infants and toddlers feel secure and happy, especially when in unfamiliar or stressful environments. For some children, sucking on a thumb or a pacifier is a calming activity that helps them self-soothe, relax, and fall asleep.

How Do Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use Affect Your Child’s Teeth?

Most children overcome thumb sucking and pacifier use before they turn four, with no long-term impact on the health of their teeth. However, some children are reluctant to put away their pacifiers or continue to suck their thumbs, leading to a host of oral health problems.

So how exactly do these oral habits harm your child’s teeth? Sucking on a pacifier or a thumb long-term can interfere with the healthy growth of the mouth. It can lead to crooked teeth, a crowded mouth, protruding front teeth, a narrowed palate, jaw development concerns, a misaligned bite, and speech problems. It can also result in significant changes in the roof of the mouth. Many of these problems require extensive orthodontic treatments down the road.

How Can You Help Your Child Quit Thumb Sucking or Pacifier Use?

If you notice that your child’s teeth no longer fit together when biting down or if your child is older than three, it’s important to intervene to help your little one quit these habits. Start with positive reinforcement. Shower your child with praise when not engaging in these habits rather than scolding. Consider setting up a “big kid” reward system to celebrate each and every success.

It’s important to help your child find other ways to self-soothe during sleep or stressful situations. If your little one sucks on a thumb or a pacifier out of boredom, offer a toy or another distraction. If your child continues thumb-sucking during sleep, a bandage or a sock over the hand can help.

Whatever you do, don’t punish your child for thumb-sucking or pacifier use, which may end up backfiring. Be patient and supportive as your little one kicks these habits, which they usually do on their own.

If all else fails, talk to us at Smile Explorers Pediatric Dentistry. Dr. Dave and his caring team can offer tips to help your child break these oral habits. We may even recommend an oral appliance to discourage thumb-sucking. We will work alongside you to find solutions to encourage proper oral health development for long-term healthy, beautiful smiles.

 Quality Pediatric Dentistry Near Me in Glendale, AZ

Visit Smile Explorers Pediatric Dentistry to learn more about preventing long-term damage to your child’s oral health from thumb-sucking or pacifier use. Our experienced pediatric dentist and kid-centered team will work alongside you to keep your little one’s smile healthy and sound. We invite you to call us at 623-322-2277 to schedule your child’s appointment today!