Many children are soothed and calmed by the means of a pacifier. Sucking on a pacifier is a natural and normal thing for a child as it is a part of their reflexes learned by the instinct of breastfeeding. Sucking on pacifiers, as well as other items, such as their thumbs, fingers, and random objects helps them to feel secure and content. Many children use the reflex of sucking as a security blanket as they go about learning and exploring the world. This act helps to relax them and can also help them fall asleep. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) states that pacifiers have a positive influence on children that are from the ages of one month until six months of age.
The problem many parents experience with their children is knowing when enough is enough. There is an age in which your child should begin to separate from the pacifier and sucking on other objects or it can begin to cause damage to the growth and alignment of their teeth. Not only can it affect the child’s teeth, but it can cause negative changes in the formation of the roof of the mouth. Pacifier sucking as well as thumb sucking can cause a lot of damage to the formation of your child’s mouth if it isn’t stopped by a certain stage of their development cycle. It pulls the child’s front teeth forward which causes disruptions to the bite as well as tooth and jaw position and alignment.
When should children stop using a pacifier?
As for pacifiers, it is recommended that children should refrain from sucking on pacifiers after the age of two years old. Continuing use after this age causes babies and toddlers to endure pacifier teeth (front teeth that are pulled forward and misalignment of the bite). The AAFP warns that excessive pacifier use after the age of even six months can also increase their risk for ear infections. If your baby is prone to ear infections, you may want to consider discontinuing the use of the pacifier after the age of six months since it is known that excessive recurrence
of ear infections in children can cause permanent hearing damage.
As for thumb sucking, the habit should be broken around the same time, two years old. Children often naturally move away from pacifier and thumb sucking around the age of two. When it comes to thumb sucking, it should be strongly discouraged after the age of four, although it is recommended to be discouraged at two years of age. You should induce the habit of sucking on a pacifier at a young age over thumb sucking as the ladder is a more difficult habit to break.
How to break the habit?
It is important to help your child break this habit in a healthy manner as excessive pressure to stop can also cause harm. Consider the following:
- Try not to scold your child for pacifier/thumb sucking but rather praise them for not doing so
- Try having your pediatric dentist in Las Colinas explain the repercussions of sucking to your toddler, as this may help discourage the behavior
- While children often result to sucking when they are feeling insecure or anxious, rather address the reason they are feeling that way to stop the sucking
- Reward your child for not reverting to a pacifier or thumb sucking when they are in a “stressful” situation such as away from their parents, etc. Remember to reward your child with a star sticker on a chart, or other similar manner than by the use of treats or sweets
Overall, one of the most important things you can do is ensure your child goes for regular checkups to their dentist. From a trusted family dentist in Irving, here at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, we would love to help you with your family’s dental needs. If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment, contact us today.