Should I Be Concerned About Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking?

Sucking is a natural reflex. Infants and young children use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects to make them feel secure and happy, or when they are feeling stressed. Keep in mind that your child finds it relaxing.

Thumb-sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely your child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine if a dental problem is at risk. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. 

If you have concerns about thumb-sucking or use of a pacifier, please call our office. We encourage you to try the following suggestions to help you and your child get through thumb-sucking:

  • Praise children when they are not using this behavior.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure (yes, even small children worry). Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb-sucking.
  • Children who are sucking for comfort may feel less of a need when they receive a lot of personal attention and comforting.
  • If you know there will be a stressful family situation, pay extra attention and provide  rewards. It’s easy for a child who has stopped sucking to go back to the behavior during stressful times.

Dr. Insano and Dr. Velazquez assess your child’s present developmental condition. In some cases we may recommend a special appliance made just for your child. If these approaches don’t work, you may find it helpful to put a bandage or a sock on your child’s hand at night as a gentle reminder.