Thumb sucking, finger sucking or pacifier use is one of the most common infant’s natural reflexes. They begin to suck on their thumb or other fingers while they are in the womb! Infants and young children have a tendency to continue the habit from within the womb and may suck on pacifier and other objects.
The habit provides some children with a sense of security during difficult periods, such as when they are separated from their parents, surrounded by strangers or in an unfamiliar environment. Young children may also thumb-suck to help fall asleep or to soothe themselves.
What is the inherent difference between thumb sucking versus pacifier use?
It is observed that allowing thumb-sucking or soothing with a pacifier could mean fewer sleepless nights for already exhausted parents. Once your toddler reaches age of two or four years, but still continues the use of pacifier or the habit of thumb sucking, then it can prove to be harmful for their teeth. Thumb sucking may be a harder habit to break than pacifier use as it is always available. The advantage of using a pacifier includes being able to take it away when it is no longer appropriate. It’s a concern with children using it throughout the day. They can cause dental imperfection, increased ear infections and sometimes interfere with speech development, depending on use.
What is Pacifier Teeth? What are the effects of Pacifier Teeth?
The term coined ‘pacifier teeth’ specifically refers to the damage brought about by a pacifier. If your growing baby continues using pacifier or sucking thumb:
- Teeth might end up growing-in crooked
- Position of the teeth might change
- Jaw might not be properly aligned
- There might be bite problems
- Upper teeth might protrude forward
So what should I do to Break the habit
Thumbsucking or pacifier use can be harmful to your child. It is better to restrain your child from cultivating the habit, as it can often prove difficult to weaning your child from the use of pacifier. Here are some ways in which you can break the habit of thumbsucking or stop the use of pacifier:
- Instead of chiding your child for thumb sucking, offer praise or a treat for not doing so
- It is often observed that children suck their fingers when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and comfort the child.
- Keep their hands and mind occupied with activities like arts and crafts or place a toy to play with. Sometimes they thumb-suck because they’re bored.
- For an older child, your dentist can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.
Children usually stop sucking between the ages of two and four years old, or by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. If you notice abnormal changes in your child’s primary teeth, or are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking habit consult your dentist.