Babies and toddlers suck on their thumbs, pacifiers, and toys to soothe themselves. Sucking behaviors in infants help meet a physiological need to eat and a psychological need for comfort. Sucking on a pacifier or finger can help satisfy a baby’s nonnutritive psychological need for comfort. It’s part of healthy childhood development for young children. However, they should form different coping mechanisms as they grow up. Kids often stop thumbsucking and pacifier use on their own. But if your child is resistant to letting go of these habits, you may feel concerned as a parent.
When Should Kids Stop Sucking Their Thumbs or Using Pacifiers?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends discontinuing or limiting pacifier use by 18 months. Most kids lose interest in thumbsucking and pacifiers by 3 years old. Encourage your child in developing new coping mechanisms by providing a comfort object and praise them when they aren’t sucking their pacifier or fingers.
What Happens to a Child’s Dental Health If They Don’t Break the Habit?
Prolonged pacifier use and fingersucking after 3 years old can result in bite issues, push out the front teeth, create a space between the top and bottom of the front teeth, or lead to a crossbite. Thumbs and pacifiers can also spread germs, which harm a child’s oral health and overall health. While sucking on a pacifier can benefit your child in their early years, particularly in the first 6 months of life, there comes a time when it can do more harm than good.
Compassionate Pediatric Dentist in Austin, TX
To get your child’s oral health started on the right foot, we recommend visiting us by your child’s first birthday or as soon as their first tooth comes in. Children should get regular cleanings and exams every six months, just like adults. If you have additional questions about your child’s thumbsucking or pacifier use, don’t hesitate to contact us!
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