Every parent knows that a big part of your baby’s first few months is learning how to eventually self-soothe. Pacifiers and thumbsucking can become a staple of your baby’s soothing habits, and as long as use doesn’t continue long-term, both can be perfectly safe for her teeth.
Pacifiers vs thumbsucking
There is not believed to be any difference in how pacifier use and thumbsucking affect your baby’s teeth. Thumbsucking has its conveniences – your baby can’t drop her thumb, and you can’t forget it or lose it! However, the same reason for these perks may make it trickier to discourage thumbsucking when it comes time to stop, as you can’t simply take your child’s thumb away.
That said, most children stop sucking their thumbs or pacifiers on their own between two and four years of age, with no harm done to their teeth or jaws.
The risks, and when it’s time to quit
Prolonged or extreme pacifier use or thumbsucking may have a negative effect on your baby’s tooth alignment and bite, and for this reason your dentist will carefully watch your child’s tooth and jaw development to make sure there are no issues to be concerned about.
In most cases, there is no reason to worry about a sucking habit until the permanent front teeth are ready to come in, but regular visits to your dentist are important to make sure that everything is developing properly. Most children stop sucking habits on their own, but some children need the help of their parents and dentist. In more extreme cases, your dentist may recommend a mouth appliance that blocks sucking habits.
Choosing a pacifier, and how to prevent ‘pacifier teeth’
If you give your baby a pacifier, choose a simple one-piece design that has no moving parts and does not have a liquid interior. Never dip your baby’s pacifier in a sweet liquid, as this will cause tooth decay.
It’s never too soon to start dental care
Good oral care starts right away, and we’re always here to help! You can find practical guidance on cleaning your infant’s gums, mouth, and teeth, teething advice, and important information about baby bottle caries in our Guide to Infant Dental Care. Our Parents’ Guide to Children’s Dental Health has more great information. And don’t forget that your baby’s first dental visit should happen by her first birthday! Get simple tips for making the first visit go well right here.