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How Does Soother Use & Thumb Sucking Affect Baby Teeth?

Both soothers and thumb or finger sucking are normal and natural ways for your infant/ toddler to self-soothe. But these habits, if not weaned at an appropriate stage, can lead to long-term complications with their teeth and jaw. Babies start sucking their thumbs in the womb a few months before birth. The purpose of the “sucking” motion comes naturally to infants as their way to gain nourishment. They will suck because it provides comfort and relaxation.

The benefits of soothers are to help with falling asleep, soothe during stressful moments and even reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome.) It is recommended to introduce soothers around 3-4 weeks after birth to prevent nipple confusion and promote good nursing or bottle-feeding. Soothers and thumbsucking should be weaned starting around 2 to prevent teeth and jaw problems. Weaning completed before the age of 4 usually won’t result in any adverse effects, but if these habits persist, it can lead to problems with teeth and jaw.  

Negative Effects

  • The most common effect of thumb-sucking and soother use is an open bite. This is a gap between the upper and lower front teeth when your child has their teeth closed together. The back teeth will touch, but the front teeth will remain open. 
  • A narrow palate due to the constant suction from the sucking action. This causes the jaw to form in a V shape as opposed to a U shape, creating more room at the back and less room at the front. 
  • Crooked and tipped front teeth 
  • Can lead to problems with speech, eating and swallowing

How to Stop the Habit 

An essential factor in your child quitting the habit is that they WANT to quit. This means they must understand the harmful effects of continuing. 

Another way to help this is by trying to reduce stress in their lives. Give your child praise when they aren’t thumb-sucking/using the soother. At night, take the soother out of their mouth. There is also a nail polish that makes their nails taste bitter, hopefully stopping the habit.

If none of these tips work, your dentist may recommend a dental appliance that prevents your child from putting their thumb into their mouth. These appliances are called “habit breakers” or “reminder appliances.” 

If you find soothers or thumb-sucking to be a problem with your child, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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