Thumb sucking and pacifiers: are they harmful?

If you’re a new parent, you’ve undoubtedly been given a lot of advice about how to raise your child. You’ve probably received pointers about naps, what to feed your new baby, how much they should be sleeping, and more. While receiving information on what you should do and what you shouldn’t do from all different directions, it can be difficult to discern what tips to follow, what to figure out on your own, and when to consult an expert.

One of the most commonly debated topics is thumb-sucking and pacifiers. While some say either is harmless and part of the child’s development, others believe that they can be harmful and detrimental to a child’s mouth. So with so many opinions and a plethora of information on the Internet, how can you decide what to believe and what is best when it comes to caring for your baby or toddler?

Certain aspects about your child’s growth are natural – including the classic thumb sucking. Thumb sucking is an innate action that so many children do since it relaxes them and makes them feel more secure, and it’s one of the staples of baby and toddler behavior. However, at a certain point, thumb sucking can cause problems for a child’s teeth later on. And because babies and toddlers are naturally inclined to suck, it can be difficult to wean them off the habit.

According to Mouth Healthy and the American Dental Association, sucking can cause problems for children once teeth start to come in, such as issues with teeth alignment and the mouth in general. Kids will typically stop thumb sucking on their own, but if it’s going on too long, you can try positive reinforcement to get them to stop their habit.

However, if you would prefer to get an expert opinion or need help, our specialists at Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics have specific training, including two years of specialized education, which makes us professionals in treating teeth of infants and children. Our dentists, located in three offices including Goodyear, can provide consulting on how to wean your child off of thumb sucking and offer useful tips on breaking the habit.

Another hot topic is pacifier use. Used for hundreds of years and similar to thumb sucking, pacifiers cater to a child’s natural inclination to suck. Pacifiers are often used to appease a crying or distressed child since they offer security and a sense of protection. However, pacifiers can cause mouth problems later on, such as misalignment, crowding, also maxilar (upper jaw) and may even lead to your child needing serious orthodontic work, such as braces, and/or Invisalign.

Our specialists at Palm Valley Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics recommend not using a pacifier at all. While it may seem like a quick fix to your child’s crying, or just as something they enjoy using, the repercussions can be lengthy and expensive as they grow into their teeth. Our dentists recommend not going straight to pacifiers as a way to calm your child. Instead, look into alternative ways to make them feel secure, such as stuffed animals or a favorite blanket.

But, if your only option is a pacifier and you feel you must use one, your baby should not use it past age 1. The longer a child uses a pacifier past their first birthday, the higher the risk that they’ll develop major dental problems later on that will result in orthodontic work, such as braces, expanders, and more.

If you’re a parent with an older child and you think he or she may need braces or some orthodontic work, schedule a consultation with us today. Our pediatric dentistsprovide both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health care needs. No matter what your age your child is, we have the expertise needed to provide excellent consultation and care.

Check out the services we provide here to find out more on what we can help you and your child with.