Preventing Tooth Decay To Maintain Healthy Teeth

Sucking On Fingers, Thumbs, And Non-Orthodontic Pacifiers: How To Stop These Habits

If you are the parent of a small child, you may be concerned about the health of his or her mouth. There are many habits that a child can develop that will eventually damage their teeth and gums. Some of these habits include sucking on fingers, thumbs, or non-orthodontic pacifiers. Here are a few details about these habits and how they can be avoided:

Sucking on Fingers, Thumbs, and Non-orthodontic Pacifiers

Some children regularly suck their thumb or middle two fingers as a soothing mechanism. The sucking, which sometimes starts in the womb, seems to elicit a calming effect. Still, kids who regularly suck on their thumb or fingers may start to show signs of dental misalignment. A similar problem develops when children suck a non-orthodontic pacifier, which does not protect the alignment of the teeth.

Over time, as a child sucks on their thumb, the pressure on the roof of the mouth can change its structure. Teeth may be forced forward, and gapping may develop. For children who suck their middle two fingers or a non-orthodontic pacifier, the top and bottom teeth in the front of the mouth may not meet, and the child may develop a lisp. The issues can eventually be corrected through orthodontic measures and speech therapy, but they can be avoided if the the sucking is stopped early on.

Here are a few things you can do to discourage the sucking of thumbs, fingers, and non-orthodontic pacifiers:

  1. Have your child wear gloves. Most children do not enjoy sucking on fuzzy fabric. The gloves would still permit them to use their hands, but they would discourage the sucking.
  2. Give your child something else to occupy his or her mouth, such as gum or a healthy snack. If your child's mouth is already filled, the youngster may be less likely to suck their fingers or thumbs.
  3. Coat the child's fingers, thumbs, or pacifier with a distasteful substance, such as vinegar. The child will be unable to suck without tasting the sour or bitter flavor.
  4. Offer the child an orthodontic pacifier as an alternative. These pacifiers are designed based on the natural structure of the mouth and are less likely to cause damage.
  5. Praise the child when they avoid sucking. This will reinforce to the child the expected or desired behavior. 

To learn more ways to help your child overcome habits that are detrimental to his or her oral health, schedule an appointment with a dentist in your area. Check out websites like for more information.