Thumb, Finger and Pacifier Habits

Like many parents out there, you may be concerned about your infant’s thumb-sucking habit. But there’s nothing to worry about, really. Sucking is a natural reflex among babies, and it gives your child a sense of comfort and security.

Thumb or finger sucking, as well as pacifier use only becomes a destructive habit when a child continues to do so past the age of 4. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, most kids will stop using a pacifier between 2 to 4 years of age. Those who continue to use a pacifier or suck their thumb/fingers are at high risk for dental problems.

These habits can cause the upper front teeth to either not erupt properly or lean toward the lip (slanting teeth). It can also affect the growth of the jaws and teeth-supporting bones (misalignment), as well as the way the child’s teeth bite together.

Other possible complications include:

  • Roof narrowing – The structures in a child’s mouth are very pliable, and repeated exposure to pacifiers and thumb sucking will result in the narrowing of the mouth’s roof.
  • Tooth decay – Some parents dip pacifiers in honey or other sweet substances to soothe their child but this only promotes the growth of oral bacteria, resulting in tooth decay.

During checkups, Dr. Mannella, Dr. Giancona and Dr. Russo will judiciously monitor the way your child’s teeth erupt and jaws develop. But remember that sucking habits may result in long term dental problems if not addressed, so intervention may be needed. When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, our pediatric dentists and hygienists can help your child overcome the habit by speaking with your child and explaining what thumb sucking can do to the teeth. Often, this one-on-one advice, coupled with support from parents, helps children quit.

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