Why Should My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb or Using a Pacifier? What Harm Can It Cause?

For many new parents who are desperate to soothe a cranky baby or to help encourage longer periods of sleep, a pacifier is often introduced during the infant stage. Some infants take matters into their own hands and soothe themselves by sucking their thumb. It’s not uncommon for babies to enjoy a pacifier or thumbsucking to help soothe themselves and learn more about the world around them. However, after a period of time, these methods to soothe begin to cause a problem with a child’s oral health.

When to Eliminate a Pacifier or Stop Thumbsucking

As the years creep by and infants move into the toddler stage it is important for parents to take notice of their child’s sucking habits. According to the American Dental Association, a child past the age of four should no longer be using a pacifier or sucking their thumb. If the behavior continues much longer past this age, you may start to notice a change in the teeth, jaw, and developmental aspects of the mouth. The earlier that using a pacifier or thumbsucking is stopped, the better your child’s oral health will be. When stopped at an appropriate time, the teeth can easily transition back into the proper placement.

Signs of Damage From Prolonged Use

We understand that transitioning your child away from pacifier use and thumbsucking can be challenging. For some inspiration to start the transition, we want to share some issues you may notice due to prolonged use:

  • Speech issues - Prolonged use of pacifiers and thumbsucking can create issues with speech and swallowing. When your child begins to speak, encourage them to remove the pacifier or thumb before speaking.
  • Bite Concerns - Teeth can protrude and cause the child not to close their mouth properly. Other bite issues related to the bottom teeth pushing inwards can also occur.
  • Change to Jaw or Face Shape - The arch of the upper jaw can narrow and change the shape of the face with the inevitable misalignment. Facial muscles also need to work differently to adjust in the changes of eating, speaking, and swallowing.

If you are concerned that your child might be suffering from one of the issues mentioned above, we can evaluate your child’s bite and teeth placement and determine the next course of action. Please contact our office located in Washington, DC to schedule an appointment.

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