Effects of Pacifier and Thumb Sucking

Effects of Pacifier and Thumb Sucking

Thumb or pacifier sucking is a phase that every infant goes through. It’s a reflexive habit that puts babies at ease – not to mention it allows parents a brief chance to enjoy some peace and quiet.

While it’s a perfectly normal habit, if it persists for too long, it can cause problems with the development of a child’s mouth and jaw.

Impact on Oral Development

The desire to suck on a pacifier or thumb often subsides between the ages of 2 and 4, according to the American Dental Association. However, at a later age, consistent pressure exerted from sucking on a thumb or pacifier can alter the shape of the mouth, resulting in:

  • Upper teeth protruding
  • Upper jaw protruding
  • Lower teeth leaning back
  • General misalignment of top and bottom teeth when the mouth closes

The intensity and frequency of the sucking motion often determines whether the habit has health consequences. For example, a child might simply allow the thumb or pacifier to rest in his or her mouth, a routine that isn’t as harmful as aggressively sucking. Similarly, a child who only sucks his or her thumb for a few minutes a day is causing less damage to the mouth and jaw than a child who does it for several hours.

Children may require a treatment such as Myobrace to correct their oral habits and allow their teeth to come in straight.

How to Help Your Child Drop the Habit

Don’t be too severe when talking to your child about thumb sucking. The habit is often the result of anxiety, so scolding the child can make it more likely he or she is tempted to rely on the behavior to soothe the nerves.

A better solution is to reward the child anytime he or she resists the urge to return to the habit. If that fails, the ADA suggests bandaging the thumb as a reminder not to suck on it.

If you have any questions, feel free to talk to Dr. Korous about your child’s oral habit development. Don’t forget that Millennium Smiles is here for all of your Little Elm Dental needs!