Thumb, Finger, and Pacifier Habits
Babies are born with the natural reflex to suck as this is important for eating and drinking as well as it provides a soothing and calming effect. Most children will stop a thumb, finger, or pacifier habit on their own sometime between the ages of 2-4 years; however, persistent habits can have long term negative affects on your child’s dental development. By establishing a dental home early for your child, your pediatric dentist at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Florida can discuss your child’s habits and how to best manage their dental development.
Are these habits bad for my child’s teeth?
Persistent habits after the baby teeth have erupted (~ 3 years old) can change the growth patterns of the jaw and cause misalignment of the teeth. Children who forcefully suck often for long periods of time are the most at risk. The jaw of your child is rich in blood supply and growing rapidly. The constant pressure of a thumb, finger or pacifier can deform the soft bone around the upper and lower front teeth resulting in an anterior open bite (where the top front teeth fail to cover the bottom front teeth), a collapse of the upper jaw causing a crossbite or another dental problem. It is important to stop the habit at an appropriate time; your pediatric dentist will be able to assess these oral changes and the need for intervention.
What can I do to help stop my child’s habit?
Most children will stop thumb and finger habits on their own when they reach school age due to peer pressure however, these habits can also be difficult to break. Through the years, parents have tried several home remedies such as having the child wear socks or gloves, reading books on how to stop the habit or coating the fingernails with a bitter tasting substance. Pacifiers tend to be easier to break as they can be taken away or punctured so they are no longer effective. If you and your child are ready to stop the sucking habit, talk with your pediatric dentist at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Florida about what may work best for him or her.