April 16, 2018
Did you know that the first official pacifier was invented in 1901 and was called a “Baby Comforter?” Of course, parents have been giving their children similar objects as homemade pacifiers since long before then. Babies and toddlers have simply always loved to self-soothe by putting things in their mouth, whether it’s a pacifier or a thumb!
But although this urge is universal among children, the damage it can cause is as well. As a children’s dentist in Windsor, we’ve talked to many parents about this very topic. So if you’re wondering about the risks of prolonged thumbsucking, keep reading to learn more about this common childhood habit and how you can help your child overcome it!
How Do Thumbsucking and Pacifier Use Affect the Mouth?
Since children are constantly growing and developing, their jawbones and facial structure aren’t solid yet.
This means that the constant physical pressure exerted from a thumb or pacifier can eventually affect the way the upper jaw develops. The result can be an abnormally developed roof-of-the-mouth, where it becomes very high or “vaulted.”
It can also impact the alignment of the teeth and might make braces necessary in adolescence when they may not have been otherwise. One of the most common examples of this is “buck teeth,” when the two permanent front teeth protrude outwards.
How Can You Help Your Child Break the Habit?
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to help your child overcome their tendency to self-sooth with their thumb or a pacifier:
- Talk about it – Simply having a conversation is a great place to start! There are also many books on the subject that can help you with this. Ideally, your child makes the decision on their own they want to be a “big” kid that doesn’t suck their thumb.
- Address any anxiety – Since these habits are a way for your child to comfort themselves when they’re feeling insecure or anxious, addressing the source of their anxiety as much as possible is one way to get at the root of the problem.
- Positive reinforcement – Focus on praising your child when they’ve been able to abstain, rather than criticizing them when they fail. Above all, don’t use shame or guilt to coerce your child into giving up their thumb or pacifier.
- Use a bandage – You might have some success with putting a bandage on the thumb or even taping a sock over it at night as a physical deterrent.
- Talk to your dentist – If all else fails, ask your children’s dentist in Windsor about options like using an oral appliance or a sour-tasting liquid that can discourage this behavior.
Remember, letting go of this habit won’t happen overnight, but like countless children before them, your child will eventually be able to move past it!
About the Author
All of the dentists at Day Hill Dental understand the impact of childhood habits on adult oral health, so they always take the time to educate both children and their parents about the best way overcome them. If you have any questions, you can reach them via their website or at (860) 688-5595.
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