It is natural and developmentally appropriate for babies and infants to want to suck on a pacifier or on their thumb. Some kiddos can even be seen sucking on their thumb in the ultrasound images before they are born! Even Dr. A. used to be a thumb sucker. So, at what point does sucking on their thumb or a pacifier become a cause for concern?

There are definitely differing opinions on the exact time children must relinquish their habit. Many sources recommend that children start giving up their pacifier or thumb habit around age two, and that many children will naturally begin giving up the habit sometime between ages two and four. It is certainly desirable that the children have given up the sucking habit prior to their permanent teeth coming in around school-age.

But more important than specifically “at what age” do they need to stop may be answering the question of “Is their habit causing any problems?” Some toddlers may only suck on their thumb or pacifier briefly to fall asleep and then once asleep, stop, causing no dental issues. Others may be seen sucking on their thumb or pacifier all day and night long. Sometime this frequent or intense sucking may shift the child’s teeth into an unnatural position where the front teeth can no longer close together or where they actually change the shape of the roof of their mouth causing a crossbite and potential orthodontic issues down the road.  

How often and how long throughout the day and night, and how intensely a child sucks, are key factors in determining if the habit is something that is really cause for concern or something that a child can be allowed to wean away from at their own pace. A pediatric dentist can help determine if the habit is causing negative changes to your child’s teeth and if it is time to try to help encourage your child to give up the habit.

Please check out the following links for more information regarding thumb sucking and pacifier use. Also schedule an appointment at ABC Pediatric Dentistry where Dr. A. and her team can help determine the right time specifically for YOUR CHILD to give up their pacifier or thumb habit as well as helpful tips on doing so!