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Thumb-Sucking & Pacifier Habits

Does your little one suck their thumb when they are nervous, scared, tired or even bored? Or do they use a pacifier to soothe? Thumb-sucking and pacifier use, which is also known as non-nutritive sucking, is completely normal! But while these habits have a calming effect for our kiddos, they also can cause future dental issues. 

Prolonged thumb-sucking & pacifier use as a child grows is known to affect the development of the teeth and jaw such as:

– open bite

– overbite

– narrow palate

– misalignment of teeth

While many children stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier between 2-4 years old, it is recommended to help kids stop oral habits around age 3. Around this time, all baby teeth have erupted and adult teeth will not start to erupt for a couple years.

*It is important to remember everyone’s eruption patterns are different! Some little ones may still be teething at this age if that is their normal teething pattern 🙂

Pacifiers and thumb sucking constrict the palate from properly developing. If the habit is stopped around age three, we can see it self correct as they grow. Your Bite Size Pediatric Dentistry team will monitor your child’s growth and development, teeth alignment and bite at their check-ups. If oral habits continue and cause misalignment, open bite, over bite, or narrow palate issues as the patient gets older and permanent teeth erupt, your pediatric dentist may suggest a consultation with an orthodontist. 

Stopping habits is hard! Positive reinforcement and sticker charts are just some of our favorite ways to help encourage our little patients to breakaway from their oral habits. Specific recommendations are based on each child’s needs – ask your Bite Size Pediatric Dentistry team about their recommendations for your child at your next visit!


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