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The Dangers of Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use

It's no secret that children can be a handful. From fussy eaters to endless tantrums, there's no shortage of stress in parenting. However, one of the most common sources of stress for children is teething. The process of sprouting teeth can be painful and uncomfortable, leading many infants and toddlers to seek relief by sucking on thumbs or pacifiers. As this action provides comfort by releasing endorphins which contain pain-relieving properties.

Dangers of Thumb Sucking

While some parents see it as a cute habit, others worry about the potential effects it could have on their child's teeth. It’s true that most children outgrow the reliance on these habits as they age, however, if they don’t it could have some serious ramifications on the development of their smile.

To better understand what can happen to a developing smile thanks to an excess of these habits, let’s review what can occur and why!

Malocclusions

Thumb sucking and pacifier use are common habits among young children. While these habits may provide comfort for your child, they can also lead to misaligned teeth and jaws.

This is because the repetitive pressure from thumb sucking or pacifier use can change the shape of the mouth and push the teeth out of alignment. This can cause a number of problems, including malocclusions (an improper bite), overbites, and underbites.

These problems can affect both the appearance and function of your child's teeth. For example, misaligned teeth can make it difficult for your child to speak clearly or chew properly. If you're concerned about your child's thumb sucking or pacifier use, talk to your trusted pediatric dentist immediately!

Jaw Development

Excessive thumb sucking or pacifier use can cause the roof of the mouth to develop differently. The roof of the mouth is made up of two plates of bone that come together in the centre. In order for those plates to develop properly, they need to be unsupported in the middle.

When a child sucks their thumb or uses a pacifier, it puts pressure on the area in between those plates and can cause them to develop abnormally. So, if your child sucks their thumb or uses a pacifier, be sure to keep an eye on the development of their roof of the mouth.

Beyond The Teeth

While thumb sucking and using a pacifier are infamous for damaging your child’s oral development, it also poses risks in other areas. Most notably, thumb sucking may damage of the skin around the mouth due to the excessive amount of moisture it produces. The skin in this area is delicate and prone to infection, and constant sucking can lead to cracks and sores.

Additionally, it also places children at a higher risk for developing ear infection. As the bacteria gathered on their thumbs, fingers, or even pacifiers, quickly spread throughout the mouth and across other regions of their face!

Bottomline

It's important to keep in mind that thumb sucking is often a response to teething discomfort, and it's not always easy for kids to give up something that provides them with comfort. With that said, there are a few things that you can do to help increase the chances of success.

  • First, it's important to have a discussion with your child about why it's time to stop sucking. If they're old enough to understand, they're more likely to be cooperative.
  • Second, provide positive reinforcement when they go periods of time without sucking. This could be in the form of verbal praise, stickers, or small toys.
  • Finally, if your child is still having trouble giving up the habit, you may want to consult with a pediatric dentist. They can provide additional guidance and support!

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