Why are Baby Teeth Important / Thumb-Sucking and Pacifier Use

We all had them as children, babies really, our pacifiers and Nuks. For some of us they were a remnant of our infancy that gave us comfort, and for others they transitioned into thumb-sucking as small children. While this seems like a natural progression for a child to go through, thumb-sucking can have long lasting implications for our dental health. If your children are still using their pacifier past the age of 3 or 4, or are sucking their thumbs at these same ages, it needs to be addressed.

Getting Started Right?

As an initial step it helps to choose the correct pacifier to protect your children’s developing teeth, select an orthodontically correct pacifier designed to limit the risk of problems with your child’s oral health. No matter how tempting, don’t dip your pacifiers in anything, especially not sweet things like sugar or honey, in an attempt to calm or soothe an upset baby. If you give your child a bottle at bedtime, ensure that this bottle contains only water, the sugar in juices can cause cavities in developing teeth.

Potential Complications For Oral Health

Ongoing use of a pacifier, or worse sucking of the thumb, can lead to a number of dental problems. The most common is a maladjustment of teeth that are coming in, with the lower teeth tipping inwards due to the pressure of the thumb or pacifier, and the upper teeth slanting out for the same reason. Worst of all, its actually possible for the child’s jaw to become misaligned due to the pressures being put on it.

How To Break The Habit

One of the hardest challenges any parent will face is aiding their child in breaking the habit of sucking on their thumb or a pacifier. In the event that your child hasn’t broken the habit by ages two to four, its going to be time to take some proactive measures to eliminate the habit before it causes lasting damage. There are a number of methods that have proven to be effective, including:

Weaning: Just as breastfed children get weaned off of the breast, so can some children who are still sucking their thumbs or using pacifiers get weaned off of them. If the child is using a pacifier, than simply removing the pacifier gradually can accomplish your goal. However, this isn’t as effective for thumb-sucking.

Make It Unpleasant: Since thumb-sucking children have a harder time simply being weaned off, a foul-tasting substance has been devised that will make sucking the thumb unpleasant. This method is usually quite effective in handling thumb suckers.

Reward Success: Using a reward based system has also been proven to be effective. As your child successfully refrains from sucking their thumb for greater periods, provide rewards for having done so.

These methods are almost always successful, though there are oral devices that can aid in the event that they fail you. It is important for your child’s dental health that these habits be ceased as soon as possible, so they can enjoy a beautiful smile throughout their lives.