Babies love their pacifiers and the act of sucking can provide comfort and soothe an anxious or cranky child and maybe soothe the parent’s anxiety of a crying child. Unfortunately a pacifier habit is setting your child up for a lifelong path of poor facial development and airway development. If you are lucky you & your child will be under the care of an airway focused dentist who can help correct the skeletal and functional problems that the pacifier causes before it becomes permanent or requires jaw surgery even in the early “teen” years.

If your child continues relying on pacifiers or thumb sucking or even bottle feeding for too long it will most likely affect tooth alignment and other important mouth development. In general you should attempt to rid them of their sucking habit between 18 and 24 months.

Some of the lasting negative effects of sucking a thumb or pacifier for too long include:

  • Bottom front teeth can slope inwards and the top front teeth can slope outwards.
  • Front teeth not meeting when the mouth is closed.
  • Both their upper and lower jaws can become misaligned.
  • The roof of the child’s mouth can become narrower.
  • An abnormal tongue swallowing pattern can occur which causes a narrow jaw, narrow airway, crowded teeth, and a number of other issues

If you’re trying to get your child to stop sucking their thumb or relying on a pacifier, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Instead of reprimanding them when they suck their thumb, try using positive reinforcement and praise them for not doing it.
  • Kids often suck their thumb when they feel insecure or anxious. Focus on addressing the cause of their discomfort and soothing the child.
  • Acknowledge and reward the child when they avoid sucking their thumb during a stressful situation, like being left with a babysitter.
  • Wrap a Band-Aid around their thumb as a reminder to the child not to put it in their mouth.
  • Try putting a sock over their thumb sucking hand at bedtime to prevent them from inadvertently doing it while sleeping.

If you’re still having trouble getting your child to reverse their thumb sucking habit, contact our office. If home remedies haven’t worked for you, a dentist can prescribe a mouth appliance or medication that coats the thumb to prevent sucking.

If you think your child’s teeth are being affected by pacifier use or thumb sucking, call our office today at (562) 434-6414 to see how we can help.