Dummy and Thumb Sucking

Posted on : 12-05-2013 | By : Haddon Suttner | In : Dentistry for Children

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Sucking a dummy or fingers is thought to be a normal act in young children. However, many parents are unaware of the negative effects of dummies on their child’s mouth and teeth.

 

thumb-sucking

 

Dentists advise that parents only let their child use a dummy with caution, as the shape of a child’s mouth and teeth can be negatively affected if sucking continues to school age, after the adult teeth appear. These changes can then become long-lasting, and teeth may be pushed forward so that the bottom and top front teeth don’t meet properly.

Another serious concern for many dentists is that rapid tooth decay may occur if dummies are dipped in sugary substances such as jam, honey, fruit juice or condensed milk. Furthermore, dummies may be a source of bacterial infection if they are shared by other children or picked up from the floor.

The risk of tooth decay in the child’s mouth can be increased if you suck your child’s dummy, thereby transferring bacteria from your mouth to the child’s. If parents do choose to give their child a dummy, it is important to follow good hygiene, and to make sure dummies are in good condition and meet safety guidelines.

Besides incorrectly positioned teeth and tooth decay, extended use of a dummy can lead to many other mouth and dental problems. For example, dummy-use may cause your child to breathe through their mouth rather than their nose, leading to long-term problems such as dribbling. Furthermore, a child’s speech development may be impaired, as they may have fewer opportunities to use sounds to communicate, and may therefore not learn the full range of tongue and mouth movements needed for forming all speech sounds.

Parents should give children the opportunity to cease their dummy use (wean) spontaneously. Sudden parent-initiated weaning from the dummy is not recommended, as it can lead to other negative habits such as finger sucking. Parents should persist gently but firmly. The first few days will be the most difficult and it may take several tries before the habit is fully broken.

Studies show that thumb suckers have greater difficulty breaking the habit than dummy suckers. An advantage of the dummy over finger sucking is that the dummy can be removed when the child falls asleep. This allows the child to learn to sleep without needing to suck a dummy or thumb.

While dummy sucking is not a major problem for dental care in the very early years, it should be stopped before permanent teeth appear in the mouth. Parents should contact their local dentist for further advice.

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