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Thumb-sucking & Pacifiers: What to Expect as a Parent

Thumb-sucking & Pacifiers: What to Expect as a Parent

Hello Friends, Family, and Patients!

With so many of my friends, family, and patients expecting a baby this year, I thought it would be exceptionally helpful to give everyone some advice on thumb-sucking and pacifiers. Before you get the urge to slap me for telling you how to parent you kids, don’t worry, this is not that kind of message. It is just a bit about the facts about both categories.

Thumb-sucking is a natural reflex for children. It can provide a sense of security and happiness while our bright little ones explore the world. Typically, as parents we notice that thumb-sucking and pacifier use can help our little ones when our little guys, or girls, fall asleep. The question is, really, how can this affect my child’s teeth in the long-run.

Here’s the skinny: After a child’s permanent teeth come in, sucking on those fingers can cause problems with the alignment in their mouth. Teeth can grow in a direction, and move in directions, that best suit the sucking of those fingers. Intensity can also play a factor. Children that suck their thumb or fingers vigorously can have more dental problems than those who just place their thumb or fingers in their mouths passively. In my opinion, I would like to see children stop sucking their thumb or fingers by the age of 2-4. Pacifiers can affect the teeth in the same manner, but, often a “binky” or pacifier is easier to break. The good news is that pacifiers have been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS, and encourage babies to self soothe. However, on the flip side, pacifiers have been shown to increase the probabilities of ear infections and cause the same dental problems as thumb-sucking.

Overall, there are some pros and cons to thumb-sucking and pacifiers. I would encourage you to do some homework and figure out what direction you would like to take as parent. Happy parenting and until next time….


Dr E

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