Thumbsucking and pacifier use are very common among children, and many children will stop this activity on their own sometime between two and four years of age. Many parents find themselves concerned about the potential oral development problems that these habits can cause, and talking to a pediatric dentist can help ease some of this worry. Today, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about thumbsucking and pacifier use and review how you can best help your child break the habit.

If you’re searching for a friendly and fun kids dentist in San Marcos, look no further than Alligator Dental. Our office provides a fun and welcoming environment for children, and our dentists are more than happy to speak with you about any concerns you may have about your child’s thumbsucking or pacifier habit. Call 512-393-3500 to schedule your child’s appointment!

Why Do Children Suck Their Thumbs?

Some parents may mistakenly think that a child’s preference for a pacifier or desire to suck his or her thumb is a learned habit. While many children like to mimic this behavior when they are playing together, the truth is that all children have a natural sucking and rooting reflex. This often prompts them to put fingers, thumbs, and pacifiers in their mouths when they are hungry desire something to provide soothing. This reflex is stronger in some children than others, and some children have an easier time than others when it comes time to give up the comfort that thumb sucking or a pacifier provides.

Should You Discourage This Behavior?

In most cases, short term thumbsucking and pacifier use are not detrimental to your child’s oral health and development. However, if your child has a hard time breaking the habit, or if he or she has a particularly aggressive oral fixation, it may be wise to make an appointment with a local pediatric dentist. This is because long term reliance on this method of self-soothing can result in dental complications for your child as he or she ages. Some of these complications may include:

  • Mouth sores
  • Misaligned jaw
  • Narrowing of the roof of the mouth
  • Dental decay and/or tooth slanting

If you have concerns about whether or not your child’s pacifier or thumbsucking behavior is causing any of these complications, contact Alligator Dental, the leading pediatric dentist in San Marcos, today at 512-393-3500. We’d be more than happy to schedule an appointment for your child to complete an examination and assess whether or not his or her oral development is being negatively impacted.

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How Can You Get Your Child to Stop the Habit?

Helping your child break the thumbsucking or pacifier habit can be incredibly challenging and emotional. As parents, we want to do everything we can to help our children grow in a healthy manner, and it can be difficult to help them overcome that one last habit from when they were babies. However, doing so will help ensure that your child’s mouth develops properly, setting the stage for a beautiful smile and proper oral functioning later on in life. There are many things you can do to help your little one break the habit, including:

  • Identify the triggers. Does your child suck his or her thumb when anxious? If so, it can be beneficial to reduce known triggers and substitute other means of comfort, such as hugs, loving words, or a stuffed animal to provide comfort.
  • Positive reinforcement. If your child responds well to positive reinforcement, it may be beneficial to provide this in the form of praise or rewards. In this case, we advise against any kind of tasty treat since you are trying to break an oral habit.
  • Gentle, but firm, reminders. If you catch your child sucking his or her thumb, try a gentle reminder. To avoid embarrassing your child in front of others, you can even develop a private hand gesture or secret word that only you guys know.

While it can be a frustrating and emotional experience for parent and child both, maintaining a positive spirit will go a long way to provide the positive encouragement that your child needs to make this important decision for his or her dental health. Speaking with a pediatric dentist can provide some much needed encouragement, and he or she may be able to recommend specific products or services that can help make this challenging process easier for both you and your child.

Pediatric Dentist in San Marcos

At Alligator Dental, we make going to the dentist in San Marcos fun for kids, and we’d love to meet your family. If you’d like to schedule an appointment and speak with one of our dentists about your child sucking his or her thumb, our amazing Gator Crew is more than happy to help. Schedule your child’s appointment online or call 512-393-3500 now!