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Pacifiers & Thumb Sucking


Attention new parents! The use of pacifiers and thumb sucking as a baby and an infant can impact orthodontic health later in life. Sucking is a natural reflex that all babies are born with. However, the long-term sucking of a thumb or pacifier could cause a child’s jaw to grow around whatever it is they have in their mouth. Often referred to as “pacifier teeth”, this can lead to orthodontic problems like protruding front teeth, an open bite or a cross bite. In most cases, we are able to correct these issues with traditional braces. In some cases, correctly the malocclusion involves more in depth treatment.

Pacifier Use

From purely an orthodontic perspective, a baby should use a pacifier the least amount of time possible or not at all. However, as parents, we understand that pacifiers can be lifesavers and there are a few positives to using them. If you choose to use pacifiers with your babies, we highly recommend that you choose one marked “orthodontist approved” and follow the age suggestions that are on the box. Most credited organizations suggest that babies stop pacifier use by age two, or earlier if possible. If you need assistance or ideas to help ending pacifier use, refer to this brochure from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry or reach out to your pediatric dentist.

Thumb Sucking

In addition, long term thumb sucking also affects oral and jaw development. Although often viewed as cute, the habit can lead to an open bite and the need for early orthodontic treatment. Unlike pacifiers, you cannot remove a thumb from the child. Most kids usually stop sucking their thumb on their own, but it is important to help them end the habit if they do not. Again, your pediatric dentist can provide you with options and assistance.

Schedule an Orthodontic Exam at Age 7

Concerned about your child’s oral development due to using a pacifier or thumb sucking? The American Association of Orthodontists suggests seeing an orthodontic specialist at age seven. An orthodontic specialist, like Dr. Lauren Olson, is trained to see the need for early treatment. Do not worry, not all kids will need treatment at this age. If your child does not need early treatment, we will continue to monitor their development and suggest treatment at the optimal time.

New patient exams are free at Olson Orthodontics! You can call us to get set up or fill out an online appointment request. We look forward to seeing your whole family smile!

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