How Pacifier Use and Thumb-Sucking Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth

How Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth

To many, the use of a pacifier or thumb-sucking is an innocent habit exhibited by many children around the world. However, what many people don’t realize is these seemingly innocent habits can vastly affect the growth of your child’s teeth. Issues can develop from prolonged use of a pacifier or thumb-sucking, which can increase the chances of your child needing orthodontic treatment to reverse the damage. That’s why it’s advised to address these issues early. Here’s how pacifier use and thumb-sucking can affect your child’s teeth.

Issues with the Teeth

Although it’s a natural reflex, prolonged pacifier use or thumb-sucking can affect the teeth in a negative way. Problems with proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment are things to consider when your child is still exhibiting these behaviors. These habits can also cause changes to the structure of the roof of the mouth. Depending on how vigorously a child sucks their thumb or pacifier will determine how easy it will be for them to break this habit. Typically, aggressive thumb-suckers have a more difficult time breaking this habit than passive thumb-suckers.

How to Break These Habits

In most cases, children will naturally stop sucking their thumbs or using a pacifier between the ages of two and four. By the time permanent teeth are ready to come in, these habits should be gone, so the teeth can come in properly. Use of a pacifier or thumb-sucking can cause permanent teeth to come in crooked, resulting in the need for orthodontic treatment to correct them.

There are methods available to help your child break these habits if it doesn’t come naturally. These include:

  • Rewarding and praising your child for not sucking their thumb.
  • Helping your child lessen anxiety, so they don’t turn to thumb-sucking.
  • Working with your child to find the method that is effective for them.

Enlisting the Help of a Professional

If you’re unable to help your child to break these habits, you may need to consult your orthodontist or dentist for a little extra help. The use of a palatal crib appliance has been proven to be effective in breaking these habits in children. This appliance is cemented behind the teeth and stops thumb sucking immediately. It is then left in place for a period of about six months to solidify that the habit has been broken.

Speak with your dental professional if you are concerned about your child’s habit, so that you can be sure you’re addressing it early. Waiting too long can create a number of problems with the growth of the teeth and mouth, and can vastly increase the need for orthodontic treatment . Be sure you work with your child so together, you can find a way to be successful in breaking these habits for good.

At Milnor Orthodontics, our experts are here to help you achieve a priceless smile. Call our office at (970) 230-3187 or visit to learn more. We're located at 1103 S. Shields St. in Fort Collins, Colorado.