Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers

Babies and smaller children often have habits such as thumb, finger and/or pacifier sucking. They fulfill important needs of the young child. There is no reason for concern unless they continue too long. How should you deal with a child that exhibits such behavior?

Most children discontinue these habits on their own somewhere between two and four years of age and often suffer no ill effects. If continued for longer periods the upper front teeth may begin to misalign, pointing outward and upward.

With regular visits your pediatric dentist can often carefully monitor the development of your child’s mouth to catch any abnormalities early before they become serious. For most children there is no concern until permanent teeth begin arriving unless the frequency and severity of the habit has greatly distorted arch form.

If a problem develops, many children voluntarily correct the habit when the situation is adequately explained to them by parents and their pediatric dentist. In those cases where this does not work, appliances are available which make sucking difficult.

There is not much difference between the effects of a thumb, finger or pacifier. The latter habit is, however, often easier to break.