Damage Caused by Thumbsucking and Pacifier Use
During the infancy stage, and even in the womb, it is natural for a baby to suck their thumb. It is a self-soothing technique and actually helps to teach about the environment around them. It can also be used as a coping mechanism when a child is feeling anxious or overwhelmed with a situation. When a child is in the infant and toddler stage, using a method to self-soothe such as a pacifier or thumbsucking is appreciated by parents because it helps with a sleepless night or a tantrum. However, at a certain age, pacifier use and thumbsucking become a problem in regards to teeth.
According to the American Dental Association, a child past the age of four should no longer be using a pacifier or sucking their thumb. If the behavior continues much longer past this age, you may start to notice a change in the teeth, jaw, and developmental aspects of the mouth. Some of the issues you may notice are:
- Overuse of pacifiers and thumbsucking can cause malocclusion, or a misalignment of the upper and lower teeth and jaw. This is commonly seen in an overbite and an open bite.
Change to Jaw and Face Shape
- With prolonged use of pacifiers and thumbsucking, the arch of the upper jaw can narrow and change the shape of the face with the inevitable misalignment. Facial muscles also need to work differently to adjust in the changes of eating, speaking, and swallowing.
- Prolonged use of pacifiers and thumbsucking can create issues with speech and swallowing. A lisp or mispronunciation of sounds can occur. Due to the change in jaw shape, a tongue thrust, or pushing of the tongue against the teeth when speaking, can become an issue.
Any of these issues can be treated with orthodontics; however, the earlier the behavior is stopped, the less intense treatment will be. If your child was a thumbsucker or pacifier user for many years and you are concerned with the alignment of their teeth, please contact our Southfield, MI office to schedule a consultation.