Carlsbad Children's Dentistry

Many children use pacifiers or thumb sucking to calm themselves, and as a young child it usually isn’t a concern. But, eventually a Carlsbad pediatric dentist, such as Carlsbad Children’s Dentistry, will suggest that you help your child to wean from these habits, because they can cause problems for dental health.

Why Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use Can Be Bad
When a child sucks their thumb or uses a pacifier for an extended period of time, it can begin to damage the child’s teeth. Any Carlsbad pediatric dentist that you talk with will make the same suggestion: it is much easier to prevent the damage than it is to treat the problem. So, if your child has a habit of using a pacifier or sucking their thumb, then you should consider weaning them from the habit in the near future.

For the first few years of the child’s life, these habits aren’t a concern. But, the child should definitely be weaned by the time they are three or four years old. If the habit continues beyond this point, it can cause speech problems or cause the teeth to be crooked. In severe cases, it can even cause the top part of the jaw to grow malformed.

Each child is different, and the way they suck the pacifier or thumb can cause the problem to worsen. The amount of damage is usually dependent on the way they suck the pacifier or thumb, as well as the intensity of the thumb/pacifier sucking.

Helping Your Child Break the Habit
There are a few tips that you can follow to help your child break these habits. First of all, make sure that it is good timing, because you want to set the child up for success. For example, if a major life event is happening in your family, such as a move or the birth of a new baby, then it probably isn’t the best time to take away the pacifier. Make sure the child’s environment is as low-stress as possible.

Next, put together a reward system for your child, so that they can be rewarded for not sucking. You might consider a sticker chart or another method to help them celebrate their progress. Also, be sure to use plenty of positive reinforcement and praise them with your language as you are talking with them.

There is a great book that you should consider reading to your child, called “David Decides About Thumb Sucking: A Story for Children,” by Susan Heitler, PHD. Read this book, and look for other books about dental health that you can share with your child.

You might also talk with your Carlsbad pediatric dentist about the child’s habits, so that the dentist can encourage the child to stop sucking their thumb/pacifier. Above all, be patient and recognize that the habit won’t be broken overnight. When you are patient and supportive of your child, over time they will begin to make the change.

Here at Carlsbad Children’s Dentistry, we are happy to help your child break the thumb/pacifier sucking habit. Contact us to schedule an appointment at: (760) 633-1131