Posted On: December 27, 2016

Thumb sucking is a natural instinct for infants. They use their mouths to become acquainted with their environment and often put fingers, toes, and other objects in their mouth to test them out. Even though it may be natural, thumb sucking can lead to the same complications as a pacifier if used persistently and long-term. Many professionals prefer pacifier use to thumb sucking because parents can easily control and limit pacifier use. If thumb sucking lingers on, parents can use some of the same intervention strategies used to break a child from a pacifier.

Most children will discontinue pacifier use between the ages of 2 and 4 without any outside assistance. However, an intervention may be needed if the child doesn’t stop. Children may respond better to a dentist or orthodontist explaining to them the need for letting go of the pacifier or stopping the thumb sucking to ensure that their teeth remain healthy. Positive reinforcement and rewards can aid in the process of stopping these habits. If simple strategies do not break the habits, a more intensive strategy (an oral device) may be necessary. The device would prevent the use of a pacifier or thumb sucking from occurring. This option can be discussed with the child’s dentist or orthodontist. -Billie Jo