Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry

Breaking the Habit: How Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers Affect Your Child's Smile

Breaking the Habit: How Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers Affect Your Child’s Smile

Reviewed by Dr. Henry Martinez, DMD

Thumb sucking and pacifier use are common habits for young children. While they often provide comfort and security, these habits can also affect your child’s permanent teeth and jaw alignment. You may wonder: Do pacifiers cause teeth problems later on?

It’s important to understand the potential short and long-term effects of thumb sucking and pacifier use in order to intervene when necessary.

In this blog, we will talk about the impact thumb sucking and pacifier use have on your kid’s teeth as well as tips and tricks to break the habit.

The Impact on Your Child’s Teeth

While thumb sucking and pacifier use are natural coping mechanisms for young children, they can sometimes lead to dental issues if continued for extended periods.

  • Misaligned teeth and bite problems: Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can cause the front teeth to become misaligned, leading to an open bite or an overbite, which may require orthodontic treatment later in life. It can also impact the proper growth of the child’s jaw.
  • Speech issues: Malocclusion or misaligned teeth due to thumb sucking or pacifier use can lead to speech difficulties, such as lisps or pronunciation troubles.
  • Oral infections: Thumb sucking can transmit bacteria from your child’s hands to their mouth, increasing the risk of oral infections.

While these are valid concerns, most children will naturally outgrow these habits by age 3 to 4. If your child continues these habits beyond this age, it’s time to actively encourage them to stop.

Tips for Breaking the Habit

Here are some helpful tips to help your child break the habit of thumb-sucking or pacifier use:

Positive reinforcement: Acknowledge and praise your child’s progress when they go without these habits to encourage them to continue.

Create a reward system: Offer small incentives for milestones, such as a week without thumb-sucking or pacifier use.

Offer distractions: Encourage your child to engage in activities that require both hands so they cannot suck their thumb or use a pacifier.

Address the underlying cause: If your child turns to these habits due to anxiety or stress, work to identify the cause and offer comfort or coping strategies.

Talk to your pediatric dentist: Your pediatric dentist can offer additional guidance and support, helping your child understand the importance of good oral hygiene.

Dr. Henry Martinez – Your Pediatric Dentist in Phoenix

At Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry, Dr. Henry Martinez and his experienced team are committed to helping your child develop good oral health habits for life. Proudly serving Ahwatukee Foothills, Laveen, Chandler, Tempe, and all of Phoenix, we provide gentle, compassionate dental care.

Whether you’re concerned about the effect of your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use on their teeth, or simply in need of a routine dental exam, we’re here to help. Call (602) 935-7427 to book an appointment or complete the online booking form. Give your child the opportunity to enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles!

If you’re searching for a pediatric dentist near me, contact Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry! 


At What Age Should Pacifiers Be Taken Away?

Most children will outgrow their need for pacifiers, but if they haven’t stopped by the age of 3 it’s important to actively encourage them to break the habit.

Will It Harm My Babies Teeth if I Give a Bottle at Night?

It depends on what is in the bottle. If the bottle contains juice or milk, the sugar will coat the teeth and provide food for bacteria, increasing the risk of tooth decay. It’s best to give your baby a bottle filled with water only.

How Do You Prevent Tooth Decay With Babies Who Use Bottles?

There are several ways to prevent tooth decay. Your baby should be drinking from a cup by the age of 12 months. They should finish their nap time or nighttime bottle before being put to bed. If you do send them to bed with a bottle, it should only be filled with water. Start brushing their teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste as soon as their first tooth comes in. What Is the First Symptom of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

The first symptom of baby bottle tooth decay is white spots on the teeth. If left untreated, this can lead to decay and cavities in baby teeth.

What Are Some Signs of a Misaligned Bite?

Signs of a misaligned bite include overcrowding, open bites, crossbites, and overbites. If you notice any irregularities in your child’s smile, talk to your pediatric dentist. They can help diagnose the issue and provide guidance on how to address it.

At What Age Should I Take My Child to the Dentist?

It’s recommended that children should visit the dentist by 12 months of age or when their first tooth appears. This helps to ensure good oral health and can also help to prevent dental problems in the future.