Will thumb sucking or pacifier use harm my child’s teeth?


Thumbs sucking is a common, and very natural, habit among young children. Through thumb sucking, children gain a sense of security and start to become aware of themselves and the world around them. But, like other habits, sucking a thumb, finger, or pacifier can become problematic if it goes on for too long.

Thumb sucking can actually begin before your child is born. And, many give up on these habits on their own, without pressure from parents or a pediatric dentist. Not every child does, though. Because of that, our pediatric dentists also keep thumb, finger, and pacifier sucking in mind when completing a checkup with your little one. Prolonged sucking can dramatically affect the way teeth develop, creating potential problems further down the road.

When a child engages in thumb, finger, or pacifier sucking beyond the age of three, a mouth appliance may be necessary to fully stop the habit. If sucking isn’t prevented, your child’s upper teeth may emerge at a wrong angle. But besides changing the way teeth come in, the jaws and bones supporting teeth can also be affected. All of this can result in a misaligned bite that may need to be corrected later on through orthodontics.

For a child who continues to suck her thumb, finger, or pacifier, intervention will be needed by the time she is three years old or older. A special appliance can help with this. Our pediatric dentist can also talk to your child about what thumb, finger, and pacifier sucking can do to teeth. Sometimes, just through talking to children about how the teeth and jaws will be affected is enough to help them give up on this habit. But we can’t do it alone. Supporting our encouragement at home is important to helping your child gradually give up the habit of sucking on a pacifier, their thumb, or one or more fingers.

All of this points to the importance of bringing your child in for a first appointment as soon as her first tooth comes in. As we become acquainted with your child’s smile, we can look out for signs that teeth or the jaw aren’t developing as they should. If we see anything that needs to be addressed, we can put together a plan that will help. If your child doesn’t see a dentist until her smile has already developed, it will be more difficult to provide pro-active care.

Has your child continued to suck her thumb, finger, or pacifier longer than she should? Call Kidtastic to reserve an appointment with us or to just ask us about this topic. We have locations in MesaGilbert and Queen Creek. During your child’s appointment, we can also talk to you about oral care tips, nutritional advice, and other topics that will help you care for your child. Helping your child develop a healthy smile, as well as healthy habits, are important. Let us help you and your family with this essential but challenging task. You don’t have to do any of it alone.