How Can Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking Affect Kids’ Smiles?

How can pacifiers and thumb-sucking affect kids’ smiles? Especially when comforting a fussy baby or helping a toddler wind down for bedtime, pacifiers and thumb-sucking are often parents’ go-to solutions. These habits are as common as lullabies and bedtime stories, and they can indeed be effective in providing comfort and promoting sleep. As an orthodontic practice, our team at Davis & Goldberg Orthodontics often gets asked about the potential impact of these habits on children’s developing smiles.

It’s a valid concern. After all, as parents, we want what’s best for our children. This blog post will discuss the effects of pacifiers and thumb-sucking on your child’s teeth and jaw development. We’ll explore the orthodontic implications of these habits and give you the knowledge to make informed decisions for your child’s oral health. Let’s dive in and demystify these everyday childhood habits together.

Baby Teeth Basics

Understanding the impact of pacifiers and thumb sucking requires a basic grasp of how children’s teeth and jaws develop. Baby teeth, or primary teeth, are crucial in a child’s oral development. They help your child chew and speak, guide the growth of the jaw, and ensure the correct alignment of their permanent teeth.

The first baby tooth typically appears around six months of age, and by the time your child is around three years old, they should have a complete set of 20 primary teeth. These baby teeth act as placeholders for the adult teeth that will eventually replace them. This process usually starts around six and can continue until the early teenage years. This transition period from baby to permanent teeth is critical in your child’s oral development. It’s also the time when the effects of prolonged pacifier use or thumb sucking can become apparent.

The Impact Of Pacifiers And Thumb Sucking

While these habits can be comforting for children, prolonged use can alter the mouth’s shape and the teeth’s alignment. These changes can create multiple issues, including an open bite, where the front teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed; a crossbite, where the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth; an underbite, where the lower front teeth stick out past the upper front teeth, an overbite, where the upper front teeth exceed the lower teeth past the standard amount and upper front teeth angled toward the mouth, it is an overjet.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry states that if these habits continue beyond age three, especially when permanent teeth appear, they may lead to orthodontic problems. However, it’s important to remember that every child is unique, and not all children who use pacifiers or suck their thumbs will need orthodontic treatment.

When And How To Discourage These Habits

Knowing the potential impact of pacifiers and thumb-sucking on your child’s oral development, you might wonder when and how to encourage your child to break these habits. Most children naturally outgrow these behaviors between the ages of two and four. However, if your child continues these habits beyond this age, especially when the permanent teeth start to erupt, it might be time to intervene.

Start by explaining to your child, in age-appropriate language, how these habits can affect their teeth. Use positive reinforcement to celebrate when they avoid these habits, especially during stressful situations or bedtime when these behaviors are most likely to occur. Other options include offering replacement items instead, like a stuffed animal or blanket, or going cold turkey and throwing all pacifiers away at once to avoid temptation.

If your child finds it difficult to break these habits, consider seeking advice from your pediatrician or one of our knowledgeable orthodontists. They can provide additional strategies tailored to your child’s specific needs. For instance, we might recommend a mouth appliance for children struggling to stop thumb-sucking.

Remember, patience and support are essential during this transition. It’s a significant change for your child, and there may be some challenging days. But with your help, your child can successfully break these habits and maintain a healthy smile.


Davis & Goldberg Orthodontics Can Help Your Child Achieve Oral Health Success!

At Davis & Goldberg Orthodontics, we’re not just about straightening teeth. We’re about empowering parents with knowledge and providing children with comprehensive care that contributes to their well-being. If you are in High Point, Greensboro, or surrounding areas, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s oral development. We’re here to help guide you and your child toward a future filled with healthy, confident smiles. When your child is old enough, we also offer free consultations to assess your child’s teeth and jaw alignment.