Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking

Dealing with Child Thumb Sucking & Pacifiers

In the dental world, thumb or pacifier habits fall under the category of “non-nutritive sucking habits”. Sucking habits are NORMAL for children up to the age of about five or six. Many children use sucking habits as a comfort and coping mechanism when they feel anxious or hurt.  Some children naturally stop the sucking habit as they develop other ways to comfort themselves.  Others continue the sucking habit for an extended amount of time.

The dental community has a concern about sucking habits, as the habit may produce adverse effects on jaw structure and/or alignment of teeth.  The adverse effects can be treated with orthodontic therapy. Sucking habits do NOT affect each child to the same degree. Changes in jaw structure or alignment are related to the frequency, force, and direction of the individual sucking habit.   These adverse effects can vary from mild to severe changes. If you would the like your child’s Thumb or Pacifier habit evaluated consider the help of  Santa Cruz County pediatric dentist, Dr. Seth Reder, at Capitola Kids Dentistry.

Many parents struggle with helping their children breaking the thumb-sucking habit, so here are a few ways you can be a positive influence on your child’s coping mechanisms:

Try to encourage your child to only use thumb-sucking as a remedy to fall asleep, rather than a comfort for throughout the day or in public.

Use positive reinforcement, and praise your child when he or she isn’t thumb-sucking throughout the day.

Identify triggers for your child, and comfort him or her with other methods, such as a hug or calming words, when you think he or she might otherwise thumb-suck to cope with feeling anxious or nervous in a situation.  Practice self- awareness with your child in these situations, and ask your child to think about why he or she might be thumb-sucking.

Most importantly, avoid punishing your child for thumb-sucking, as this could stir up more anxiety and result in a more deeply ingrained comfort habit.

Remember, thumb-sucking is the earliest and most common habit for children, and odds are that your child will grow out of their sucking habit naturally when he or she has developed other skills for dealing with stressful situations. Until that time, and with the help of your pediatric dentist Dr. Seth Reder, you can help your child break their thumb- sucking habit through positive reinforcement and gentle reminders.

Contact our pediatric dental office to schedule an appoinment.


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