Why do children suck on fingers, pacifiers, or other objects?
This type of sucking is completely normal for babies and young children. It provides security. For young babies, it is a way to make contact with and learn about the world. In fact, babies begin to suck on their fingers or thumbs even before they are born.
Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers, or other objects on their own between 2 and 4 years old. However, some children continue these habits over long periods of time. In these children, their upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come in properly. Frequently or intense habits over a prolonged period of time can affect the way the child’s teethbite together, as well as the growth of the jaws and bones that support the teeth.
Your pediatric dentist will carefully watch the way your child’s teeth erupt and jaws develop, keeping the sucking habit in mind at all times. Because persistent habits may cause long term problems, intervention may be recommended for children beyond 3 years of age.
Most people stop sucking habits on their own, but some children may need the help of their parents and their pediatric dentist. When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, your pediatric dentist can encourage your child to stop, as well as talk about what happens to the teeth and jaws if your child does not stop. This advice, coupled with support from parents, helps most children quit. If this approach does not work, your pediatric dentist may recommend ways to change the behavior, including a mouth appliance that interfered with sucking habits.
Thumb, finger and pacifier sucking affect the teeth and jaws essentially the same way. However, a pacifier habit is often easier to break.
Content provided from the AAPD, a not-for-profit membership association representing the specialty of pediatric dentistry. The AAPD's 7,500 members are primary oral health care providers who offer comprehensive specialty treatment for millions of infants, children, adolescents, and individuals with special health care needs. The AAPD also represents general dentists who treat a significant number of children in their practices. As advocates for children's oral health, the AAPD develops and promotes evidence-based policies and guidelines, fosters research, contributes to scholarly work concerning pediatric oral health, and educates health care providers, policymakes, and the public on ways to improve children's oral health. For further information, please visit the AAPD Web site at www.aapd.org