Weaning from the Pacifier or Thumb Habit


Dr. Van Orenstein

Board Certified Pediatric Dentist

First of all, please know that you’re not alone.  Attempting to wean from a pacifier, thumb, or other oral habit can be very challenging and frustrating.  We are here to support you and to help give strategies or resources towards what can be a difficult task.  This can be stressful for both the child and the parent.  

When you come to your visit at the pediatric dentist, we will approach the subject in a very gentle manner after discussing the issue with the parent first.  Many times,  the instructions to cease a habit can be absorbed differently when coming from a dentist or dental professional. There have been countless times when parents have said that their child was able to stop the very next day after the we explained why it was so important.

As every child is unique and can learn in his or her own way, there is no magic bullet which will solve this issue.  Whether it be through rewards, motivation, or a more thorough understanding of why it’s important, we will approach the situation in a productive and positive manner.  

What age should I try to stop the pacifier or thumb habit?

The general answer is as soon as possible.  Stopping a habit can be difficult because many children use the “binky” or thumb as a self-soothing mechanism or can suck without knowing it while asleep.  The longer you wait, the larger the effect may be on the position of the teeth and surrounding structures.

How should I talk to my child about trying to stop?

The conversation with your child should be a positive one;  try explaining why it’s important to stop the habit with positive reinforcement using rewards for progress.  Stay away from punishment or upsetting disputes.  These tend to be unproductive and have not been shown to have good results in helping stop the habit.

If the teeth move, is that permanent?

We evaluate tooth movement along with growth and development at regularly scheduled visits. Many times, if the habit is stopped early enough, the body itself can quickly reverse tooth movement associated with a finger or pacifier habit.  In cases when this is not easily reversed, orthodontics may be needed to reposition the teeth and surrounding structures to their natural position.

Do you have any other tips or strategies to share with me?

Of course!  This is not a one size fits all conversation.  What works for one family may not work at all for another.

  • This is an informative article written by the president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry on the topic.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Click for Article

  • Cutting the pacifier over time can make it much less pleasing to suck on.

  • Sour tasting nail polishes can make thumb sucking unappealing if your child is getting older and still can’t stop.      http://www.mavala-usa.com/stop/

  •  Try a story with your child about the “Binky Fairy”                                                                                                                                                        Goodbye Binky 

  • Do you have any other strategies that have worked?  Let us know how you did it.

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