Your Toddler and Pacifiers: The Impact and Tips for Quitting

Your Toddler and Pacifiers
Posted on 09/11/2018

When their infant or toddler is having a meltdown and won't seem to stop crying, many parents reach for their trusty pacifier or allow their child to soothe themselves with a thumb or finger. This is a great temporary solution, but the continued use of pacifiers, or sucking on a finger or thumb, can negatively impact a child's dental health and appearance.

Here is some important information about the use of pacifiers and fingers for soothing. Learn the benefits of pacifiers for newborns and how to help you infant or toddler beat their pacifier or thumb-sucking habit.

Impact of Pacifier Use or Thumb Sucking on Teeth and Jaw

Sucking on a pacifier or their thumb provides an infant or toddler with a sense of comfort. It is often used to replace the soothing feeling associated with breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Your pediatrician will often recommend your toddler stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier by the age of two because this habit can lead to several dental issues.

For example, the constant sucking motion will impact how your child's teeth and jaw form and sit inside the mouth. The jaw will begin to form around the thumb or pacifier, and teeth will be pushed forward and become crooked. Eventually, the front teeth will not meet when their mouth is closed.

Parents often mistakenly believe that because baby teeth are impermanent, any impact to their formation and growth is inconsequential. Healthy, properly formed primary teeth act as a placeholder for the secondary teeth, which are forming under the gums. When a toddler's baby teeth and gum are impacted by pacifier use and constant thumb sucking, it provides a poor foundation for their adult teeth.

Benefits of Pacifier Use for Newborns

Introducing pacifiers to a newborn is a very personal decision for parents. Many are afraid that future problems associated with pacifiers is enough reason to put them aside. However, there are benefits to allowing babies six months and under to use a pacifier. For example, a pacifier can help a fussy, teething baby fall asleep. The sucking motion can also help ease babies during a flight.

Providing your baby with a pacifier can also help reduce their risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Although scientists aren’t quite sure why there is a correlation between pacifiers and a lower risk of perishing from SIDS, it is still considered a simple way to protect your newborn.

Tips to Help Your Toddler Break the Pacifier and Thumb-Sucking Habit

Breaking an infant or toddler of the pacifier or thumb-sucking habit can be tricky, but it is possible. These are several simple tips and strategies that will get your child to give up the pacifier and thumb:

  • Limit access to the pacifier. Hide all the pacifiers, and only allow your toddler to use one during naptime and bedtime.
  • Appeal to your toddler's grownup side. Remind your toddler that pacifiers and thumb sucking is for babies. Several books are available that will encourage your growing toddler to give up their habit as well.
  • Remind your child about their habit. Watch your child to pinpoint when they are prone to thumb sucking, such as before bed or while reading a book. Gently remind your child to pull the thumb out during these times.
  • Purchase thumb or finger covers. These plastic covers make it difficult and uncomfortable for toddlers to suck their thumb.

Avoid reprimanding your child when they stick a pacifier or their thumb in their mouth. Instead, praise them when they go several hours or days without resorting to their bad habit.

Correcting Oral Problems from Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking

Your dentist will determine the extent of any issues caused by prolonged use of pacifiers or thumb sucking and devise a plan to treat the issue. For example, if your toddler suffered jaw misalignment, your dentist might recommend waiting for them to reach adolescence before correcting the problem with traditional braces, headgear braces, an upper jaw expander, or in extreme cases, jaw surgery.

Tooth decay is a common problem associated with prolonged pacifier use, especially if a toddler uses a pacifier right after eating. In addition to developing an oral hygiene routine, your dentist might recommend more frequent cleanings to correct the decay before it leads to cavities.

Aggressive sucking on a pacifier or thumb can lead to oral sores. These sores are typically minor and will resolve themselves if your toddler stops relying on a pacifier or their thumb. Your dentist will recommend providing your toddler relief through over-the-counter pain relievers, cold compresses, and sugar-free popsicles or other frozen treats.

Helping your toddler give up their pacifier or thumb sucking will prevent future oral health problems. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to contact the dental professionals at Treasured Smiles Pediatric Dentistry.