In terms of development, it’s extremely common for babies and toddlers to suck on their thumbs, fingers, and pacifiers. In fact, it’s not just common — it’s developmentally appropriate.
Toddlers show these tendencies because sucking on objects provides security and a way to interact with a new world. Many babies even suck on their fingers and thumbs while they’re still in the womb for this very reason.
Because this behavior makes a child feel more secure and connected, it follows that it relaxes them; hence, the term “pacifier” makes a lot of sense.
Although this behavior is absolutely normal, there are still a few precautions you want to take regarding pediatric oral health.
Consider this resource from Estrella Dental, a general dentist in San Diego, as you assess whether your child’s habit is okay or might require intervention.
What Does Thumb, Finger, and Pacifier Sucking Do To The Mouth?
In general, children should naturally stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers, and fingers between the ages of 2 and 4. At this point, the sucking habit should not have permanently altered the child’s dental health. While all three types of sucking affect the mouth in the same way, a pacifier habit is generally easier to stop (it’s easier to take away a pacifier compared to a thumb!)
When a habit lasts beyond age 4, it becomes more of something to which parents should pay attention. If a child continues these habits after age 4, they could result in:
- Upper front teeth developing improperly or not coming in at all
- Bite issues
- Jaw and bone development issues
If you’re concerned that your child is not outgrowing this habit, it’s worth making an appointment with a pediatric dentist. They can keep an eye on teeth eruption, jaw development, and bite alignment.
How Can I Stop The Habit?
As we mentioned, most children naturally stop this habit on their own.
If the habit continues, one of the best ways to avert it involves education. At your next pediatric dentist visit, ask if the dentist can talk to your child about how their sucking habit affects their teeth. They can point to the areas of the mouth that have already been affected by the habit and explain, in child-friendly ways, what continuing the habit might do.
Estrella Dental In San Diego
Our general dental office in San Diego offers dental care for the whole family. Doctors Miguel and Jaime Estrella are members of the San Diego community and have been providing dental care for years to all community members.
Estrella Dental prides itself on offering compassionate dental care, making us a great choice for a pediatric dentist. Whether your baby just grew its first tooth or you have a toddler who won’t let the pacifier go, our team is here to help!