Pacifiers, Thumbs and Fingers

Does your baby or child suck his thumb or use a pacifier?

Sucking is a need of all infants and very common for not only feeding but also for soothing and calming. Many children stop sucking by age 6 or 7 months. From an oral and dental development standpoint, it's best if sucking doesn't become a persistent habit and stops by two to two and a half years of age.

If your child bites down on their back teeth, the front teeth don't close together tightly or overlap, it's time for concern.

Generally it's easier to stop a habit of sucking on a pacifier than a finger or thumb. As well, pacifiers that are shaped so that they're wider than they're high are less detrimental to oral growth and development than fingers or thumbs.

How can I help my child to stop sucking?

First, try ignoring the behaviour.

Harsh words, teasing or punishment may intensify the habit by upsetting your child. On the other hand, reward good behaviour by praising and material rewards such as star charts, stickers, daily rewards and even a weekly reward.

Children may be sucking to relieve boredom. Try diverting their attention by an activity that is fun for them.

In the case of pacifiers, helping it 'wear out' by cutting a very small part of the tip off so that it collapses easily will often decrease the satisfaction your child gets from the habit and signify to them that the pacifier is worn out and it is time to throw it away.

With fingers and thumbs, using a plastic thumb guard can help but often it merely forces the child to use a different digit. Some parents have had success with paint on deterrents also used to help break nail-biting habits that have a bitter taste when painted on the fingers and thumbs.

If you're concerned about your child's sucking habit or it's persisted past the age of 2 years, you should bring them for a consultation. It's important to see if the habit has begun to alter oral and facial growth and development and affected the teeth.

In severe cases a device can be fitted onto the teeth that prevents fingers and thumbs from putting inappropriate pressure on the teeth or bones of the jaws.

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At Dentistry Asleep®,Dr. Kevin Dann offers dental hygiene services, routine dental care for adults and children, periodontal and endodontic therapy,  cosmetic dental procedures and dental implants. Dr. Dann is one of the few Certified Specialists in Dental Anaesthesia, giving complete, comfortable care to all his valued patients. Enjoy experienced, anxiety-free dental healthcare!  Make your appointment now!