Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers

Healthy Habits, Healthy Smiles, Healthy Kids

At Centre Dentaire Laval-Ouest we know how concerning it can be to watch your infant and toddler continually suck his thumb or pacifier. Studies have shown that the majority of babies develop this habit. Don’t be alarmed.  It’s perfectly normal - to a point. It is important to monitor your child for signs that it may be turning into a problem.

Is thumb sucking a dangerous habit?

The truth is that sucking is a completely natural reflex. It helps relax and has tremendous soothing power for children. It offers infants and children a sense of security and allows them to become comfortable with their environment.

How long does the habit last?

According to the Canadian Dental Association by the time children are 2 to 4 years of age they have less need to suck. Most children will completely outgrow the habit on their own, be it thumb-sucking or pacifier by the age of four simply because the habit is no longer useful to them.

However, if your child continues the habit past the age of four or if the permanent adult teeth have started to erupt and the habit is still present – then it is time to take steps to help your child overcome this habit.

Should I worry?

In most cases – no.  Parents need not worry as most children will outgrow this natural reflex.

However it is important to pay attention and monitor your child’s habit[s] because not all thumb sucking is the same. Most children can safely suck their thumb without causing damage to their teeth or jaws. Children who suck aggressively, intensely and routinely are more likely to develop dental problems than the child who simply rests his thumb passively in his mouth.

Which is better – thumb sucking or pacifier?

A soother or pacifier is better than a thumb if your child likes to suck. You have better control over when and how your child uses a soother - You can’t easily control when the thumb goes into the mouth.

Also, never dip a pacifier into honey, sugar or juice before giving it to your child as this can cause tooth decay.

How does it affect my child’s teeth?

Most children will outgrow these habits by the age of four.  If thumb sucking or pacifier habits persist afterwards, both can cause changes in the shape and growth of the jaws, the appearance and position of the teeth and affect normal speech development.

What signs should I watch for?

  • Note how your child sucks his thumb:
  • Note the intensity of the habit: is it passive or intense [aggressive]
  • Note if your child simply rest his thumb in his mouth or does he exert a lot of pressure
  • Note the frequency of the habit: is it occasional or not
  • Your child continues to suck his thumb/ use a pacifier frequently, aggressively and intensely after the age of 4 or 5
  • Your child starts to form a callus on their thumb
  • Changes in your childs dental appearance such as the front teeth tipping forward towards the lip
  • Your child’s speech shows signs of becoming affected

If you are worried or concerned about your child’s habit or the effect on their teeth, please give us a call or bring him in for a visit. We can help assess the situation (450) 627-2658.


We speak fluent “Kid Talk”

At Centre Denatire Laval-Ouesst we will make your childs first visit an enjoyable and positive experience.  Our Dental Fun Kit will help your child to get to know their teeth and to look forward to their visit.