From birth, it’s not uncommon for many infants to use a pacifier or suck their thumb as a way to learn about the world around them. All babies are born with the reflex to suck as a way to receive nutrition and, through the use of ultrasounds prior to birth, it is proven that even fetuses suck their thumbs and fingers. Many new parents encourage pacifier use as a self-soothing technique through the newborn, infant, and toddler stages to help promote a full night’s sleep or during a tantrum. However, at a certain age, pacifier use and thumbsucking become a problem in regards to teeth.
Prolonged use of pacifiers and thumbsucking can have a negative impact on the teeth, jaw, and developmental aspects of the mouth. It is recommended that children break the habit of a pacifier or sucking their thumb by the age of 4. Understandably, it is easier said than done, but ongoing use only adds to the orthodontic treatment that will be needed during the adolescent years. Problems created by prolonged use of pacifiers and thumbsucking can include:
Change to Face Shape – The presence of a constant foreign object in the mouth can cause thes arch on the roof of the mouth to become narrowed and vaulted, resulting in the misalignment of the jaw. Facial muscles also need to work differently to adjust to changes in chewing, speaking, and swallowing.
Bite Issues – When a thumb or pacifier is in the mouth for an extended period of time, teeth will begin to protrude out of the mouth, causing an unsightly appearance and the possibility that a child will no longer be able to fully close their mouth. Other bite issues related to the bottom teeth pushing inwards can also occur.
Speech Concerns – Prolonged use of pacifiers and thumbsucking can create issues with speech and swallowing. A lisp or the mispronunciation of sounds can occur. It is also common for a child to change their speech patterns to make accommodations for a pacifier or thumb while they are speaking.
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 London, Ontario office to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Brock Rondeau and Team Rondeau