How Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking Affect Kids’ Smiles

It is a common site to see babies and small toddlers with their pacifiers handy. As a parent, you want your child to be happy with their smile. Though both a comfort tool and a potential source of dental issues, our team wants to share with you how pacifiers and thumb-sucking affect kids’ smiles. At Backus Orthodontics, we want to empower parents by sharing how they can look out for their child’s dental health as well as the steps to take when complications occur.


When Pacifier and Thumb-Sucking Should Stop

A Normal Way To Cope With Distress

Let us start by saying how baby’s sucking on their thumb or on a pacifier is a totally natural experience growing up! It is a great way to deal with feelings of worry and calm them down in difficult situations. It can be very beneficial so long as the behavior is not continued past toddlerhood. Most children end this habit by themselves between the ages of two and four, but when it is prolonged, it can lead to early dental complications.

Complications Caused By Prolonged Sucking

When excessive or prolonged pacifier use leads to issues, it can become a source of discomfort and may even encourage your child to use it more to try and soothe the distress.

Bite Issues

Malocclusion, the misalignment of teeth when the jaw is closed, is a common complication that arises. More simply referred to as bite issues, they can cause the following: open bite (when the upper and lower teeth are inclined outward, not allowing them to touch when the mouth is closed), crossbite (when the lower teeth stick out past the upper teeth), as well as overbite (when the upper teeth stick out past the lower teeth).

Speech Difficulties

When teeth become misaligned from their proper position, speech difficulties may also arise. Say the child’s tongue cannot reach the upper palate; it can lead to issues with the proper formation of words and cause malformation. Similarly, a lisp may result as well.

Crooked or Crowded Teeth

The constant presence of the thumb can lead to misalignment of the jaw and cause jaw pain. When a child’s jaw bones are still malleable (before their teenage years), it is vital it is realigned at an early age while non-invasive procedures are unnecessary. Waiting till later in life can warrant uncomfortable procedures. Crowded teeth also make sufficient brushing and flossing very difficult.


Helping Your Child Break The Habit

In order to protect your child’s smile, it is important they stop using their pacifier before the age of 4. Your child may dislike the idea of giving up on it, but it is even more important to remember that the sooner you are able to take it out of routine, the fewer issues and treatment they may have to encounter as they grow up.

Instead of taking away the pacifier all at once, Backus Orthodontics recommends you slowly do so over time so as not to leave your child without a comfort item. You can slowly wean them off of it using something that does not go in the mouth to calm them instead, such as a blanket or small toy.

If they are not receptive to trying something new, see if you can figure out where the feelings of anxiousness stem from and discover different ways to ease this particular issue. You can also try cuddling, singing, and other verbal affirmations as alternative soothing techniques.

Should the habit persist, feel free to consult with Dr. Backus or their pediatric dentist so we can help your child overcome pacifier use.


How Backus Orthodontics Can Support You

Monitoring Your Child’s Teeth

Dr. Backus will be happy to monitor your child’s teeth movement and will be able to spot any issues early on before they become more severe. As mentioned above, complications can stem from malocclusion and crooked teeth, but not to worry, as they are both common, easily treatable conditions.

Guidance and Early Intervention

The wonderful thing about orthodontic treatment for children is the earlier issues are diagnosed; the easier it is for us to provide positive long-term results. We can shift your child’s teeth back into the correct alignment through treatment such as partial braces and space maintainers. Starting early and guiding their teeth helps to encourage their future permanent teeth to grow out correctly.

The earlier you seek out treatment, the more time you are able to let your child enjoy a happy, healthy smile to show off to the world. A straight and properly aligned grin not only enhances their self-esteem but also contributes to better oral and general health overall.

Let Us Guide Your Child Through Early Orthodontics!

There are plenty of positives for your child that come with sucking on their thumbs and pacifiers. Just like with anything, moderation is key. Keep an eye on the condition of your child’s teeth, and if you notice anything concerning or something you are unsure about, don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation with our Backus Orthodontics team! Give our Hoover team a call at 205-984-3420, and will be happy to help you out. Our top priority is making sure your child’s teeth are in great condition!