Thumb-Sucking And Pacifiers: Are They Really A Risk To Teeth?

When you are the parents of an infant, you are frequently overwhelmed by too much advice. People tell you how long your child should sleep, what they should eat, and even what they should wear. When it comes to pacifiers and thumb-sucking, everyone has an opinion. As a parent, you need to know if these activities actually harm your child's teeth.


Sucking on objects is perfectly natural for babies and toddlers and helps your child self-sooth. In fact, 80% of babies suck their thumb at some point. Frequently, they suck on their fingers, thumb, or pacifier to help them sleep. A study showed that babies who suck on their thumb or a pacifier at night may be less likely to succumb to SIDs Trying to deter this behavior is not only unnecessary: it is harmful to your young child. Imagine taking away one of their biggest comforts. You may have even been tempted to suck your thumb during a traumatic incident in your adulthood. Fortunately, these actions only become harmful as your child ages.


Most children give up this habit as they age, so you don't need to interfere unless they continue when their permanent teeth are emerging. If your child sucks hard and often on their thumb or pacifier, their teeth can become misaligned. They can even develop those dreaded "buck teeth" that can make a child self-conscious. They may also develop a lisp. These results are more likely if your child sucks hard on objects. If your child just passively holds their thumb in their mouth, the danger of dental problems is minimized.  


You should never make your child feel bad about thumb or pacifier sucking. Shaming them is not productive or particularly effective since it causes more anxiety. Anxiety frequently triggers the sucking in the first place. Instead, try to keep your child's hands busy with other activities. A child who is building a block tower or throwing a ball is not going to pause to suck their thumb. Also, your dentist may be able to intervene by fitting your child with a "palatal appliance" that protects their teeth from thumb pressure.

When your children are babies, you shouldn't worry about their thumb-sucking or pacifier use. As they get older and their permanent teeth are due to arrive soon, you should gently address the issue. Consult with your dentist if you fear your child is damaging their teeth or mouth.

If you're worried that your child's teeth may have already been damaged, speak with a tooth restoration expert for help.