Is a dummy better than your child sucking their thumb? - National Dental Care

Many babies and toddlers will naturally suck on their thumbs or fingers as a way to self-soothe when they are tired or hungry. Dummies, or ‘pacifiers’, are an alternative for self-soothing and come in a variety of synthetic materials and shapes.

A generation ago, both dummies and thumb sucking were frowned upon and discouraged. Mothers were told that dummies were a sign of lazy parenting and would harm their children’s teeth.

Today we want our children to be able to settle easily, but is a dummy or thumb sucking a concern?

Dummy or thumb? Which is better?

Both dummies and thumb sucking provide a way for babies and young children to settle, and both put a certain amount of stress on baby gums and first teeth.

Neither will harm gums or teeth in the short term and many children naturally give up the habit as they reach toddler hood. Young children’s mouths are growing with the rest of their bodies and once they stop, the mouth will have a chance to return to its natural shape.

The biggest danger of allowing your children to have a dummy or suck their thumb is the formation of an “anterior open bite”, which means the front teeth don’t overlap like they normally would. If the habit is stopped by age 3, the open bite will usually resolve by itself however, it is worth seeking advice and assistance from your National Dental Care Dentist.  The main reason a dummy is preferential to a thumb, is that a dummy can be taken away however thumb sucking can be a far more difficult issue.

Dummy problems

Dummies come in a wide range of designs and materials and different children will prefer different types of dummies, or may change their preferences.

Keeping dummies clean and hygienic is a problem as they are regularly dropped. Pinning a dummy to clothes can be dangerous if the pin comes undone or a length of cord provides a strangulation risk. And sweeteners such as honey should never be dabbed on dummies.

Neither should adults ‘suck’ the dummy clean – that will just transfer potentially dangerous bacteria from your mouth to the child’s.

The advantage of a dummy is that once given up, the child is unlikely to take up sucking their fingers.

Thumb and finger sucking issues

Because fingers are always available, the habit may be continued much later than dummy use. The dummy may disappear, but it’s much harder for some children to stop sucking fingers.

If your child is still sucking fingers or thumbs by kindergarten, they may have anxiety issues. If you can treat those it’s likely that the sucking will disappear. Most children will stop as they become more aware of other children at school and to want to be like them.

Your National Dental Care dentist will help with any dental issues as your child’s adult teeth begin to appear. You can book an appointment online now.

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