Thumb, Finger & Pacifier Habits

Frequent non-nutritive habits over long periods of time can affect the way your child’s teeth fit together as well as the growth of your child’s jaw and bones. Discontinuation of these habits will prevent further adverse jaw growth, skeletal imbalances and improving esthetics of your child’s smile and self-image. Evidence has shown that the longer the habit persists, the more difficult it is to discontinue. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends discontinuation of sucking habits by the age of three or younger.

Here are some tips that may be helpful in weaning your child from his or her habit:

Thumb/Finger Habit

  • Empower your child to motivate the change of habit (ex: Remind your child that they are a big girl/boy)
  • Praise your child for the times that he or she is not sucking fingers/thumb instead of confronting when they do.
  • Use reward or positive reinforcement for motivation. We have a special prize box for children that are able to discontinue their habit by their next 6 month cleaning appointment.
  • Reminder method:
    • Use a mitten on the fingers/thumb of choice at night time when sleeping
    • Use an Ace Bandage on the elbow as a helpful reminder not to raise their hand to insert thumb/finger
    • Mavala Stop is a bitter-tasting, but harmless nail polish that can be effective in stopping a thumb/finger habit (this product can be found on Amazon.com)
  • A Habit Appliance can be cemented near the roof of the mouth and used as a permanent deterrence when other efforts are not successful

Pacifier Habit

  • Gradual approach: Pacifier is limited to bed time/ nap time (child must leave pacifier in crib/bed/ by pillow) and is eventually removed completely
  • Cut the end of the pacifier little by little: This will eliminate the satisfaction the child may get from sucking on the pacifier
  • Use reward or positive reinforcement for motivation: We have a special prize box for children that are able to discontinue their habit by their next 6 month cleaning appointment
  • Take a trip to Build-A-Bear: The child can insert the pacifier into a stuffed animal so they always have it with them. This may still provide the comfort of having the pacifier without the negative effects on their mouth
  • Pacifier Fairy: Similar to the tooth fairy idea. The child places the pacifier under his or her pillow and the pacifier will take it and give it to another baby