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1201 SE 223rd Ave. Suite 240
Gresham, OR 97030
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(503) 663-8141
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Thumbs or Binkies
Gresham, OR

A child sucking his thumb at Douglas L. Park, DDS, Pediatric Dentistry
Sucking is a natural urge for young children, especially babies. This urge to suck is filled with a thumb or with a pacifier. Sucking a thumb or pacifier can help to soothe a child and bring comfort. At a very young age, the act of sucking a thumb or pacifier is not necessarily something to worry about. However, when the habit continues past the age of 4, it can begin to have significant effects on the oral health of your child. At Douglas L. Park, DDS, Pediatric Dentistry, we can help you to assist your child in stopping thumb sucking or pacifier use, which can greatly help to protect their oral health.

Why Do Children Suck Their Thumbs or Use Pacifiers?

Children suck their thumbs or pacifiers for many reasons.
•  It can calm your child when they are upset.
•  It can comfort your child when they are feeling scared.
•  It can help your child to cope when they are in an uncomfortable situation.
•  It can make your child feel more secure.
•  It can help your child to relax when they are feeling sleepy.

When Should a Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb or a Pacifier?

Many parents are concerned about when their child should stop sucking their thumb or relying on a pacifier. The act of sucking is a natural reflex. The urge to suck often begins to decrease starting around the age of 6 months. However, thumb sucking or sucking on a pacifier can still bring significant comfort well past this age. Many children naturally stop sucking their thumbs or pacifiers around the age of 3 to 4. It is also recommended that, if your child has not stopped sucking their thumb or pacifier by age 4, you help them to stop.

Consequences of Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use

While there are no consequences of early thumb sucking and pacifier use, these habits can cause several significant consequences after the age of 4. Issues occur over time and include such things as:
•  Alignment issues with the jaw. Sucking is often a strong reflex. Over time, the continued action can cause the jaws to develop out of proper alignment.
•  Alignment issues of the teeth, including overjet, open bite, or crossbite.
•  Narrowing of the roof of the mouth. Because the oral structures are flexible at a young age, continued sucking, whether on a thumb or a pacifier, can cause the roof of the mouth to narrow, almost as if it were molding around the object.
•  Slanting or protruding teeth. This can lead to the need for extensive orthodontic work.
•  Issues with speech, such as a lisp or having trouble with certain sounds.
•  Mouth sores. If your child sucks aggressively, it can cause sores to develop.

How to Help Break the Habit

While many children give up thumb sucking or pacifier use on their own, other children may require some help. There are a few ways that you can help your child to break the habit, helping to avoid the need for extensive orthodontic work later in life.
•  Start small. Limit thumb sucking or pacifier use to certain times, and gradually lengthen the time between sessions.
•  Avoid starting a stressful situation.
•  Offer distractions.
•  For thumb sucking, wrap the thumb in a bandage or put a sock over their hand.
•  Be flexible and offer plenty of hugs and comfort.
•  Replace the thumb or pacifier with another comfort item, such as a stuffed animal to hug.
•  Use a reward system.
•  Provide gentle reminders and offer lots of praise.

If your child is having trouble giving up thumb sucking or pacifier use, we can help. Call Douglas L. Park, DDS, Pediatric Dentistry today for more information at (503) 663-8141.
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Location 1201 SE 223rd Ave.
Gresham, OR 97030



(503) 663-8141


(503) 666-6787




8 am–5 pm


Limited Fridays
Douglas L. Park DDS Pediatric Dentistry | | (503) 663-8141
1201 SE 223rd Ave. Suite 240, Gresham, OR 97030