Babies like to suck on their thumbs, fingers, and pacifiers because it is a piece of their development. After all, this is how they consume milk. These habits can actually wreak havoc on a child’s teeth, which could mean extensive dental or orthodontic work later on down the line. It is important for parents to be smart about how they choose pacifiers and coach their infant. Taking the time early can prevent some serious work later on.
Selecting the Pacifier
Parents don’t have to avoid the pacifier. Instead, they just need to be smart about how this tool is used. First off, this item should be flexible and made of firm material. The best pacifiers do not have separate pieces for the nipple and mouth guard. Experts say to avoid options that have ventilating holes.
Be Mindful of the Habit’s Frequency and Intensity
Babies tend to suck on their fingers or a blanket because it is comforting to them or because they are developing teeth. However, if the habit becomes excessive, it may become hard to break and harmful to the teeth. Parents should watch to see how hard the child sucks their thumb, how often this happens, and if this continues late into the toddler years. If all three are excessive, it is time to help the child out-grow the habit. Thus, parents should discontinue the pacifier use, use an appliance to stop the sucking, and offer incentives to help.
Know the Causes of Excessive Sucking
Children often continue to suck on their thumbs, fingers, and other items when they feel anxious or insecure. Positive reinforcement increases a child’s self-esteem and is a more nurturing way to curb sucking behavior. Parents should think about what causes their child to feel nervous and work on the root issue rather than becoming frustrated at the child when he or she starts sucking a thumb. Visual charts and vigilant positive reinforcement help children break this habit in a happy and healthy manner.
Explain the Short and Long Term Effects
As infants become toddlers, they are more capable of conversations. Thus, parents and dentists alike can explain the effects of excessive sucking. Explaining how this can make the teeth slanted or affect the mouth’s bite can help the child work on this habit. Proper communication empowers youth so that they are in charge of their health.
Sucking a thumb or pacifier is normal for infants. However, parents need to keep an eye on this so that it does not become excessive and harmful. After all, sucking is a normal reflex early in life. The American Dental Association says that most kids stop excessive sucking by the age of four. Supportive parents use positive reinforcement to retrain children and protect their teeth and bite. This prevents later dental work and issues.