We get asked all the time about children who use pacifiers. An important fact to note is that sucking a pacifier or finger is natural. Babies suck even when they are not hungry to comfort themselves. Some babies even begin to suck on their fingers or thumbs before being born!
However, when babies repeatedly suck on a pacifier or thumb and finger over a long period of time, you run the risk that their upper front teeth will begin to tip outward and not grow in properly.
In addition, crooked teeth and bite problems can occur with prolonged sucking, which may result in children needing significant orthodontic treatments later in life to correct the damage.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) does recommend a pacifier over a finger or thumb, as the habit is easier to break should babies not willingly give it up.
The organization also recommends considering safety when selecting that pacifier.
The shield on the pacifier should be wider than the child’s mouth, and the pacifier should be monitored for wear and tear.
A bottle nipple should never be used as a substitute and discontinue use if the child can fit the entire pacifier in their mouth.
Don’t dip the pacifier in anything sweet, and never leave a baby with a pacifier unattended.
It is an instinct and most children will come to the point where they will give up the thumb or pacifier on their own.
If it continues past the age of 3, it is time for the parents to intervene to help break the habit. The earlier the habit is stopped, the better for their teeth in the long run.
Early visits to a pediatric dentist will help parents to help their children stop sucking their thumbs and pacifiers and hopefully prevent damage before it is too late to turn back.
The AAPD recommends taking your child to a pediatric dentist before age 1 or when the first tooth appears.