Does Thumb-Sucking or Pacifier Use Cause Damage?

Pacifiers are a great way to comfort a baby and there American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states that it is normal for babies but parents should start weaning their child off of the pacifier after age 2-3. The earlier you start weaning your child off of the pacifier the easier it will be. When your child no longer takes a pacifier, some children resort to sucking their thumb. This is a natural reaction because most children are looking for that comfort that they are used to. It is important to know that years of thumb sucking can cause crooked teeth or speech problems. Most children usually stop thumb-sucking naturally as they become more active and from peer pressure at school. With that said, if your child is still sucking their thumb out of habit or comfort, it is probably time to start encouraging them to break the habit.


Start by just limiting time with the pacifier to times when they really need to be calmed down. If you start with this simple step, it’ll be much easier than immediately throwing away the pacifier for good.
Create a “pacifier-free” time each day where they go without it. It can be just 30 minutes or it can be 1-2 hours. Try it out with your child and see what they can handle. It is best to make a routine out of this so your child knows when this is every day. We recommend setting a timer for this so they are able to know when their time is out without bugging you.
Another great way to limit pacifier use is to encourage your toddler to take comfort in other items such as their favorite stuffed animal or blanket.
Rewarding your child can always be an option too. Sometimes weaning them off of their pacifier is as easy as rewarding them with a new toy instead of their pacifier.


Thumb-sucking can turn into a really hard habit to break so it is very important to help encourage your child to break the habit sooner rather than later. If you wait too long to stop the thumb-sucking habit, it can lead to very expensive permanent damage in their mouth. Here are a few tips to help your child break the habit:

  1. Talk to them about why it is bad for them. Sometimes all a child needs are to be told why. It is important to bring this topic up in a positive way to help encourage them to give it up. We suggest bringing up the fact that thumb sucking spreads germs, can lead to extended orthodontic treatment, speech problems, their peers may start making fun of them, and more.
  2. Another great way to incentive your child to stop sucking their thumb would be to create a reward system. We know how much kids love a good reward. A great way is to start out rewarding your kid with a sticker/prize every hour they do not suck their thumb. After they get the hang of it, reward after every day. Once your child makes it two weeks without sucking their thumb, they have most likely broken the habit!

Please keep in mind that pacifiers aren’t bad for your baby’s teeth, especially when they do not have all of their teeth in yet. Prolonged thumb-sucking and pacifier use will have permanent damage though. We would like you to encourage your child to stop early can save you thousands in treatment and help them have less health issues overall. If you have any questions or concerns, please give us a call at 501-764-3883.

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