How should you deal with sucking habits? | Dental Treatment Guide

It is completely normal and healthy for your baby or your young child to thumb suck, suck on a pacifier, or suck on a finger. You should not be alarmed or discouraged if your children do this because sucking is a natural reflex that they did while they were in the womb.

Children will normally give up their sucking habits when they reach four to five years old. If they stop sucking habits at this age then the shape of the jaw is not usually affected and the teeth must grow normally although there are children who have a hard time getting rid of the sucking habit. If a child continues their sucking habits when permanent teeth begin to erupt into the mouth then they are more likely to have bite issues. Sucking habits may lead to

  • the top front teeth end up slanting outwards
  • the bottom front teeth will tilt inwards
  • the upper jaw and the lower jaw become misaligned
  • the roof of the mouth becomes narrower from side to side

The level of distortion from sucking habits will depend on how often, how intense, and how long the child sucks. It can also be affected by the type of object the child sucks on. It is important to explain to the child why their sucking habit must stop. You must explain why the habit is harmful. You have to be supportive with your child and you have to encourage them. If the child sucks a finger or a pacifier due to stress then you should identify the source of stress and get rid of it.

Dentists may be able to provide you with appliances that will correct the distortions created by sucking. They will also provide you with several tips to help you address your their sucking habits. Here are some of the ways you can encourage your child to quit their sucking habits

  • you can use positive reinforcement
  • you can track their progress by noting every successful day with a sticker or a star
  • you can put an adhesive bandage on the finger as a reminder
  • you can make your children wear mittens when they sleep
  • you can take the finger of your child out of their mouth after they fall asleep

Some pacifier tips

You should make sure that your child uses their pacifier as safely as possible. You should not fasten a pacifier on a string or necklace around your child because they may end up strangled accidentally. You should choose a pacifier that is

  • made up with one piece and not several parts
  • has ventilating holes at their sides
  • large enough so that the child can not swallow the item
  • made from flexible, non-toxic material
  • had a handle that is easy to hold

You should always check the pacifier before giving it to the child. You should make sure that there are no rips or tears. Replace it right away if you spot any. You should not dip the pacifier in honey or any other sweet food before you give it to the baby because the sugar may prompt tooth decay.

Further Information about your Babies Mouth & Teeth