May 7th, 2021
Young children commonly suck on their thumbs, fingers, or a pacifier. For babies and young children this action can be soothing and helps them to feel secure. At an early age, sucking habits are not something to cause concern. However, remember that pacifiers should never be dipped in sugar or other sweeteners as this can promote cavities.
By the age of two years, children should be encouraged to stop sucking on pacifiers and their thumb. This is because thumb and pacifier sucking can become problematic as children become older. Continued sucking can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and teeth alignment. It can also cause changes to the roof of the mouth.
Generally, by age of two to four years most children stop sucking behaviors on their own. You can encourage your child to quit by praising and rewarding them for not sucking during times that they normally engage in that behavior (such as being away from you or during bedtime). You can also bandage your child’s thumb at night as a way to discourage them from sucking.
If your child has a favorite pacifier you might want to consider sewing it into a new stuffed animal so the pacifier is still there, but not in a way that can be used orally. Some parents have found that a “pacifier fairy” who takes away a pacifier and leaves a “big kid toy” can also be effective at ending the pacifier habit. If these suggestions don’t work for you, be sure to check with your pediatric dentist for more ideas.
Starting at the age of one year, children should see a pediatric dentist who will monitor the child's dental health. Their dentist can also help you identify if there are problems from continued thumb sucking or pacifier use.