Grandville Pediatric Dentists West Michigan

Guide to Stopping Thumb and Pacifier Habits

young girl with pacifier in mouth

Guide to Stopping Thumb and Pacifier Habits

young girl with pacifier in mouth

Watching your baby sleep peacefully with a pacifier or thumb in their mouth is always cute. But what if they’re still exhibiting these behaviors as they enter school? Not only is it something they could be teased for, but our Grandville, MI, pediatric dentists want you to be aware of how the prolonged action can affect their oral development.

Here’s how you can wean your child off thumb and pacifier habits.

Risks of Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use

Babies instinctively know that their inherent sucking reflex guarantees them two things: food and comfort. Preventing your baby from sucking on either a thumb or pacifier can deprive them of a way to calm themselves.

Related PostThe Dangers of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

However, once they become toddlers, it’s recommended that they start to move past the sucking instinct they were born with. If you want to avoid issues with how their teeth and mouth develop, aim to abandon the habit by age 2 or 3 if possible.

Prolonged pacifier or thumb sucking can affect the shape of your child’s mouth and how their adult teeth line up. This does depend on how often, how intensely, and how long the habit occurs. If you can stop them by the time their upper adult teeth show up, the bite may correct itself. Otherwise, one of the issues you risk is an open bite where the top and bottom teeth don’t meet properly. This, and other bite issues, may then need to be fixed with braces or clear aligners down the road.

Our pediatric dentists can perform an oral examination and let you know if your child requires orthodontic intervention.

Dive Deep into the Cause

When your child continues to suck their thumb or cling to a pacifier, there is usually a reason why. As their parent or guardian, it’s important to speak with them and find the cause. That way, you can better understand how to resolve the issue.

Oftentimes, children stick to these habits because they desire comfort. Practicing the sucking reflex is an early way for infants to self-regulate emotions. So, if your child becomes stressed, they may turn to their thumb or pacifier if it’s brought them relief in the past.

Dental Related Stress?5 Ways to Calm Your Child’s Nerves Before the Dentist

Whether your child is feeling bored, anxious, insecure, or needs help sleeping, the cause is worth investigating. Once you know where your child is coming from, it’ll be much easier to move past the habit.

Ways to Start Pacifier Weaning

There are a couple methods you can try to convince your child to abandon their pacifier. Compared to thumb sucking, pacifier use is easier to stop since it’s not physically attached. Yet, it can still prove difficult which is why we recommend these tips.

Wean your child off their pacifier by:

  • Cutting the tip of the rubber with scissors to break the suction seal that your child seeks out for comfort.
  • Encouraging your child to be big and give it to another baby. Be sure to properly sanitize the pacifier if you choose this option.
  • Sowing it into their favorite stuffed animal. This way, they still have the pacifier with them, but they can’t use it.
  • Praising your child when they do not use the pacifier.

As you work with your child, our pediatric dentists encourage you to remain strong. Avoid caving and resorting to dipping the pacifier in sugar or honey as it can cause tooth decay and unwanted dental fillings. It might be a tough process to get through, but your child’s smile will thank you later!

Ways to Discourage Thumb Sucking

Unlike a pacifier, your child’s thumb is always with them. This makes thumb sucking a tougher habit to break and the process of stopping may involve more setbacks. Still, there are a few tips you can try at home.

Get your child to drop thumb sucking by:

  • Using positive reinforcement when you notice them not sucking their thumb (verbal praise or affirmation).
  • Giving them small, non-food rewards after they’ve gone a certain period without engaging in the habit.
  • Keeping their hands busy with fidget toys, puzzles, fun activities, etc.
  • Putting a sock over their hand at night to prevent thumb sucking while sleeping.
  • Applying bitter tasting, safe nail polish or prescribed medication to the thumb.

If you need recommendations for something to apply to the thumb, our pediatric dentists have a list of options they love thanks to years of experience helping parents overcome this habit with their children. We’re always open to answering questions so reach out to our Grandville pediatric dental office when you’re ready!

Ask for Thumb Sucking & Pacifier Advice for Your Child

Need more help putting an end to your child’s stubborn habit? Our pediatric dentists in Grandville, MI, can speak with you one-on-one about other tips you can try at home and if your child is showing any oral complications. Call Grandville Pediatric Dentistry today at (616) 531-3430 or schedule an appointment online.

This blog post has been updated.

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