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Can Pacifiers And Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth?

Many babies and toddlers use pacifiers, fingers, thumbs, or various objects to suckle to calm down and help them feel a sense of safety and fall asleep. However, it’s not unreasonable that many parents worry that letting their children use pacifiers or thumbs is a problematic habit that is hard to break and may lead to dental problems with regular use.

So-called “pacifier teeth” is a real condition that can lead to alignment problems in teeth and the jaw that need to be corrected by an orthodontist in Grand Rapids.

Can Pacifiers Cause an Overbite?

An overbite is a type of misalignment of the teeth where the upper jaw falls significantly farther in front of the lower jaw when the mouth is closed. Constant thumb-sucking or pacifier use can lead to an overbite as the jaw grows to accommodate the constant presence of a foreign object in the mouth.

Problems Caused by Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking

Although fine for occasional use, when pacifiers and other objects in the mouth are used frequently or past a certain age, they can cause a variety of dental concerns. Pacifier teeth can result in changes in the roof of a mouth, which can lead to a narrowing and general malformation of the mouth. If used excessively, pacifiers can also rub areas of skin near the mouth and cause irritation.

Prolonged thumb sucking can cause many of the same problems as with the pacifier outlined above. The palate, jaw, and teeth can be pushed from the correct alignment which, aside from bite issues, can lead to speech problems as well. This can lead to communication issues and frustration for children.

In severe cases, pacifiers and other sucking objects can lead to cavities and gum disease. This is why encouraging pacifier use by dipping it in a sweet substance is strongly discouraged, as sugar can accelerate plaque buildup which can cause these issues.

Sore Skin

Thumb-sucking has more than just oral health concerns, as it can cause sore, red, and irritated skin on the thumb. Calluses and blisters can form over time, as well as fingernails becoming warped. If thumb-sucking continues into childhood and permanent teeth break out before the age of six, children can develop problems with misalignments in the jaw and palate.

A Habit That’s Hard to Break

Thumb sucking beyond the age of three or four is likely to be an issue because it is a hard-to-break habit and can last much longer than using pacifiers. It is also harder for parents to manage, as they can’t take away a thumb like they can a pacifier.

Regardless of whether it is thumb sucking or pacifier use, it is important to understand that not every child will experience the issues described here. The severity of pacifier teeth depends on factors like how long the child has been using the pacifier or finger and how hard they have been sucking on it.

Orthodontic Care For Children in Grand Rapids

Constant thumb-sucking or pacifier use is an early indication that you may need orthodontic care to ensure your child’s teeth, gums, and jaw develop normally and healthily. When it comes to children’s orthodontics, prevention is key, and Dr. Kathryn Swan can be your family’s partner in the journey to straight teeth and a properly aligned jaw. Schedule your appointment today by calling our office or request a consultation online today.