The Sawgrass Orthodontic team shares how pacifiers and thumb-sucking affect kids’ smiles and how we can help!

It’s not unusual for children to pick up oral habits at some point. If your child sucks their thumb or pacifier for too long, their smile can suffer the consequences. Our team at Sawgrass Orthodontics is here to help break these habits for a healthier smile. This can be a challenging process, but you’re not alone. Sometimes, education and simple behavior modification are all you need, but dental or orthodontic work may become necessary. 

Dr. Kristen and Dr. Penny will help you and your child navigate this journey with a personal treatment plan and attentive care from the moment you step into our Sunrise or Weston office. Keep reading to learn how pacifiers and thumb-sucking affect kids’ smiles and how we can help!

The Problem With Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking

Pacifiers and thumb-sucking are common habits in young children, and thankfully they don’t always lead to damage to the teeth and mouth. While passively holding the thumb or pacifier in the mouth isn’t anything to worry about, active sucking can damage your child’s baby teeth. In many cases, these issues will resolve when the permanent teeth erupt, but more severe habits can cause damage to the permanent teeth as well. 

The consistent motion of pacifier and thumb-sucking places pressure on the teeth, jaw, and roof of the mouth that can result in severe oral issues, including:

  • Overbite – the front teeth protrude out over the jaw and mouth
  • Open Bite – the top and bottom teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed
  • Change in jaw shape can cause alignment issues or speech problems
  • Sensitivity in the roof of the mouth

If your child’s habit is resolved before the permanent teeth erupt, they likely won’t experience any long-term problems. However, if they continue to suck their thumb, these problems could become more serious. 

The Sawgrass Orthodontic team shares how pacifiers and thumb-sucking affect kids’ smiles and how we can help!

Helping Your Child Break Bad Habits

There are a few factors to consider when helping your child break their bad habit. The most important is their age. Simply talking to them about the problem can be beneficial for older children. 

Another important aspect of breaking the habit is noticing when and where the behavior occurs. For example, if your child sucks their thumb as a self-soothing strategy, determine the root cause of that anxiety. If they do it when bored, help them by providing an activity with their hands instead.

Here are some additional ways to help kick this harmful habit!

Habit breaking appliance

Habit-breaking appliances help children eliminate bad habits and ensure a healthy smile. These specialized appliances can be fixed or removable and are placed on the mouth’s roof. They’re minimally invasive and provide a deterrent to pacifiers and thumb-sucking. Since the thumb or pacifier can’t comfortably apply pressure on the roof of the mouth, the benefits of thumb-sucking won’t be present, and your child will eventually stop the habit. 

If a habit appliance is necessary, your child may experience slight discomfort while adjusting. We suggest a soft diet during this time to avoid additional discomfort. 

Positive reinforcement

Encouraging your child when they aren’t engaging in pacifier or thumb-sucking can play a large part in their success! Tracking days without thumb-sucking with a fun chart can help your child see their progress and help you keep track, as well. 

Thumb shields/gloves

These are a great way to remind your child not to suck their thumb throughout the day. They’re great for older children during the day when you can’t be there to remind them. You can also have your child wear gloves or mittens at night to prevent them from sucking their thumb while they sleep. 

The Sawgrass Orthodontic team shares how pacifiers and thumb-sucking affect kids’ smiles and how we can help!

Build Healthy Habits With Sawgrass Orthodontics

While many children outgrow pacifiers and thumb-sucking, that isn’t always the case! Talking to a pediatric dentist can help you and your child understand how to help break bad habits and give their smile the care it deserves. We’ll help you find the best solution for your child based on their unique needs and help you ensure a healthy smile for life!

At Sawgrass Orthodontics, we love helping children create healthy habits. Contact our office today if you’re ready to schedule your child’s free orthodontic exam. We can’t wait to help your child smile!

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