How Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking Affect Kids’ Smiles

From the initial gummy grin to the emergence of milk teeth, a child’s smile is a joyful journey. However, this journey may intersect with pacifiers and thumb-sucking. Our incredible Boger Dental team, Dr. Boger, Dr. Madden, Dr. Scherweit, Dr. Betterman, Dr. Trapp, and Dr. Zaragoza, have been helping Plymouth kids with pacifiers and thumb-sucking for a long time. Let’s explore the realm of petite teeth and examine how these widespread habits could affect your child’s vibrant smile.

Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking: An Overview

Pacifiers and thumb-sucking are typical self-soothing behaviors among infants and young children, often beginning in infancy as a natural reflex. Babies possess a robust sucking reflex that can foster feelings of security and contentment and even aid in sleep initiation.

Pacifiers and thumb-sucking offer similar benefits, like comforting a child and providing a sense of calm and security in unfamiliar scenarios. For some, these practices may be coping mechanisms for anxiety or stress.

Nonetheless, while such habits are normal and even advantageous in early infancy, extended pacifier use or thumb sucking can affect a child’s oral health. As children grow and their teeth evolve, these comforting habits can influence the alignment of the teeth and the shape of the mouth, potentially causing dental problems in the future.

Pacifiers, Thumb Sucking, and Dental Health

While pacifiers and thumb-sucking comfort infants and toddlers, prolonged use can significantly impact an older child’s dental health. Constant sucking can shape teeth and jaw development, potentially leading to multiple orthodontic issues.

Malocclusion, or teeth misalignment, is prevalent among kids who continue pacifiers and thumb-sucking. This could result in an overbite, where the upper front teeth jut out over the lower teeth, or an open bite. With an open bite, the upper and lower front teeth do not overlap when the mouth is shut. These conditions can hinder a child’s ability to bite, chew, and speak properly.

Besides malocclusion, prolonged thumb sucking and pacifier use can modify the roof of the mouth, affecting its shape and possibly leading to palate development problems. Thumb-sucking can further contribute to tooth alignment and bite issues too.

Furthermore, these habits can impede speech development. Due to jaw alignment and tooth placement changes, children may acquire lisps or other speech impediments.

Remember that these potential problems aren’t guaranteed, and the severity often correlates with the child’s sucking habit’s frequency, duration, and intensity. Understanding these potential impacts underlines the need to monitor these habits and mitigate their effects when necessary.

When Should Children Quit Pacifiers or Thumb-sucking?

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association recommend children ideally stop using pacifiers or sucking their thumbs by age two. However, timelines vary since each child is different and may relinquish these habits at their own speed.

Bear in mind these habits often comfort children. Hence, abrupt changes could distress them. Gradual weaning is usually more effective and less stressful.

Ending these habits can be challenging, but multiple strategies can assist. For instance, confining pacifiers for naps and bedtime is an excellent initial step. Positive reinforcement can also be successful, like praising children for not using pacifiers or sucking their thumbs.

For older children, include them in the process and explain why stopping is essential. Children’s books addressing this topic can be a helpful resource.


Did you know using pacifiers and thumb-sucking can affect your kids' smiles? Our incredible Boger Dental team explores exactly how.

Pediatric Dentistry: Monitoring and Addressing These Issues

Regular dental check-ups are vital in monitoring pacifier use and the impact of thumb-sucking on a child’s oral health. At Boger Dental, our pediatric dentists are equipped to identify early signs of potential dental problems these habits may cause.

The dentist will inspect the child’s teeth and jaw development during check-ups, ensuring normal progression. If issues are detected, the dentist can discuss potential treatment options or strategies to help the child quit the habit.

Early intervention can sometimes realign the teeth if the child has already developed orthodontic issues from prolonged pacifier use or thumb-sucking. This intervention can involve using orthodontic appliances or referring an orthodontist for further evaluation.

At Boger Dental, we recognize each child’s uniqueness. Our team is committed to delivering customized care tailored to each child’s specific needs and concerns. We believe in education and cooperate with parents and caregivers to provide the information and resources they need to boost their child’s oral health.

We aim to foster a positive, welcoming environment where children feel comfortable. Each visit will be a positive experience, building a foundation of good oral health habits that will endure a lifetime.


Tips for Parents

Assisting your child in transitioning away from pacifiers or thumb-sucking can be challenging. With patience and understanding, it’s achievable. Here are some practical suggestions:

  1. Regular check-ups at Boger Dental can monitor your child’s oral development and provide professional advice on managing these habits.
  2. Commend your child when they choose not to use a pacifier or suck their thumb. Small rewards can be motivating.
  3. Offer other forms of comfort, like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, particularly during stress or bedtime.
  4. For older children, involve them in the process. Explain the importance of stopping these habits and the benefits for their teeth.
  5. Instead of going cold turkey, try limiting pacifier use or thumb sucking to specific times, like bedtime or during stressful situations.
  6. Remember, each child is unique, and strategies that work for one might not for another. Stay patient and supportive throughout this process.

Did you know using pacifiers and thumb-sucking can affect your kids' smiles? Our incredible Boger Dental team explores exactly how.

Book The Best Appointment At Boger Dental

Steering your child’s oral health journey can be intricate, but you’re not alone. At Boger Dental in Plymouth, we’re ready to assist you at every step. Ready to safeguard your child’s bright and healthy smile? Schedule a free consultation with us today. Your child’s radiant smile is our mission. Dr. Boger, Dr. Madden, Dr. Scherweit, Dr. Betterman, Dr. Trapp, and Dr. Zaragoza can’t wait to meet you!