Helping your child give up their pacifier or stop sucking their thumb can be a frustrating undertaking.  Most kids are encouraged to do this before they start preschool and while many do, there are some who can be a little more stubborn when it comes to quitting.

There’s now even more reason to keep your child from sucking their thumb or staying attached to their pacifier. Dentists and orthodontists both agree that these habits can lead to some oral developmental issues that can require braces and other appliances to correct.

How Do Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking Impact Your Mouth?

Pacifiers and thumb-sucking are a normal, healthy part of childhood. As a toddler, your child sucks their thumb or uses a pacifier as a way to feel more comfortable and relaxed. These provide a sense of security for small children that can help them fall asleep easier.

If it’s so natural, then why is it an issue? For kids who suck their thumb for too long, the repeated and constant pressure of their finger against the roof of their mouth can impact their oral development.

Jaw misalignment is a big issue that stems from pacifiers. These can cause the jaw to sit and develop at an abnormal angle. This can also cause misaligned teeth. Putting continuous pressure on the back of your upper front teeth pushes them forward and into a protruded position. The roof of your child’s mouth can also be narrowed because of the shape and pressure from applying the pacifier or the thumb to it.  

While this might seem scary, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports most children stop using a pacifier after they are four years old. Major problems do not arise from this pattern because the habit is broken before permanent adult teeth come in. So, there’s no need to worry if your child is still sucking their thumb or constantly using a pacifier as a toddler.

If the habit persists after five years old however, children have an increased risk of developing problems with the development of their upper jaw and teeth alignment. But, there are plenty of ways to get them to stop relatively quickly.

How to Stop Your Child From Sucking Their Thumb

If you’re having trouble getting your child to stop sucking their thumb, there are multiple ways to help them break this habit:

  • Praise your child for not sucking their thumb. You could also give them a reward when they don’t suck their thumb during anxious or difficult times.
  • Have the dentist or orthodontist talk to them about the serious effects of thumb-sucking. Having a professional doctor back you up is generally helpful.
  • Wrap their thumbs in soft cloth or have them wear mittens at nighttime.
  • Lastly, if you child is having a difficult time after all attempts to stop on their own have been made, then it may be time to visit an orthodontist to discuss options for a thumb sucking habit appliance.

Be sure and talk to your orthodontist or dentist if you have difficulty getting your child to stop. It will most likely just take time and patience.

If you have any other questions or concerns about pacifiers or thumb-sucking, call us today at (843) 4-BRACES.