Red Haired Little Girl Laying on Floor Sucking Thumb

Thumb-Sucking, Pacifiers & Oral Health

The world is a big, new, confusing place for a young child, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that they like having something familiar to help them cope. Sometimes this means a stuffed animal or favorite blanket they carry everywhere, but for many children, it’s a pacifier or a thumb.

As parents, it’s important to be able to strike the right balance for our children when it comes to thumb-sucking or pacifier habits. Forcing them to stop too early can bring them unnecessary stress, but allowing them to continue sucking that thumb too long can cause significant problems for their oral health.

When Thumb-Sucking And Pacifiers Are Beneficial

Sucking on things is a reflex babies develop before birth, and it can be very comforting for them. Sucking their thumb or a pacifier will help them feel safe and happy in their earliest years of life. Benefits to thumb-sucking or pacifier use at this stage include helping them sleep (which also helps you sleep), keeping them calm when separated from you, and reducing the risk of SIDS.

When Is It Time To Stop?

Many parents worry that their toddler’s thumb-sucking or pacifier use will cause their adult teeth to grow in crooked, but there’s no need to worry at this age. Most children stop sucking their thumbs on their own by age four, and when they begin school, the desire to appear as grown-up as their peers will encourage them to stop.

If they don’t stop on their own around kindergarten age, this is when it’s important to intervene. Once the permanent teeth start coming in, vigorous thumb-sucking can lead to changes in the shape of the palate and an open bite between the upper and lower teeth, which will mean expensive orthodontic treatment down the line.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksgikMelSEY

Tips For Discouraging Thumb-Sucking

Bite and dental alignment problems are less common with pacifiers because parents can simply take the pacifier away if the child doesn’t stop using it on their own by age three, but if your child is getting close to age six and still sucking their thumb, here are a few safe strategies you could use:

  • Praise their successes rather than scolding them for continuing to suck their thumb.
  • Create a rewards chart so they can see the progress they’re making and what they’re working for.
  • Keep their hands and minds occupied with activities like arts and crafts. Sometimes they thumb-suck because they’re bored!
  • Cover their hands with socks at night to keep them from thumb-sucking in their sleep. (You may need to tape these in place so they can’t remove them.)

Don’t forget that these strategies are for kindergarten-age and older children, not toddlers! Toddlers are too young to understand why you want them to stop sucking their thumb, so attempts at discouragement will only upset them.

Come To Us With Your Concerns

If you’re worried about your child’s pacifier use or thumb-sucking habit, don’t hesitate to talk to us! We can answer your questions and help you develop an effective strategy to ensure your child’s healthy dental development.

Little beautiful african girl brushing teeth, healthy concept

Oral Health Habits To Teach Your Children

Raising a child is tough work. There are so many things parents have to teach them so that they can succeed as they grow older. Included on that list are good oral health habits that will enable them to keep their teeth healthy and strong for life!

Build Good Habits Early

For permanent teeth to be healthy and strong it’s crucial to start building good oral health habits at a very young age. These habits include brushing their teeth twice a day for two full minutes, scraping their tongues, and flossing daily. Being consistent with a daily routine will help establish these habits quickly. Besides, you want to keep their baby teeth healthy so that their adult teeth will come in where they should and have a healthy start!

Tactics For Teaching Oral Hygiene

Children love to imitate what their parents do, and they love proving that they are big boys and girls. Aside from letting them watch someone brush their teeth, here are a few other ways to help them form good habits!

Get them excited! Talking up good oral health will help them to get excited about starting to brush their own teeth as well as flossing and eating the right foods.

Let them choose their own “equipment.” When they choose their own toothbrush, it will them take ownership of their oral health, so encourage them to pick out their favorite one!

Use examples! Youtube videos, apps, children’s books, etc., are great examples, other than brushing yourself, to show your child that having good oral health is fun to do!

Praise their successes. If they know you’re proud of them for brushing their teeth, they’ll be proud of themselves and be happier to do it. You might even use a reward system until they get in the habit, like a sticker chart to build up to a prize.

Share this video with your children to show them why they should take care of their teeth:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK2si5aFXek

Our Extra Expertise

If your child is still refusing to brush their teeth, or is having a hard time grasping the concept of maintaining good oral health, that’s okay! Every child learns at their own pace. Just be patient and keep trying. You can also come to us for help. We can show them examples, talk to them, try to find out why they’re not so interested in brushing, and set up a routine with them! They’ll be tooth-brushing pros before you know it.

We look forward to seeing you again!

Jaw with teeth on white background, medicine concept. Vector illustration.

The Different Types of Teeth

You’ve probably noticed that your teeth aren’t all the same shape, but do you know the reason? Humans have four different types of teeth, and they each serve specific purposes, both in helping us chew and in giving us our beautiful smiles! The reason we need so many different types of teeth is that we are omnivores, which means we eat both plants and meat. We need teeth that can handle all of our favorite foods!

Children mouth with tooth numbering chart on blue background

Incisors

At the very front of the mouth, the top four and bottom four teeth are the incisors. The middle ones are central incisors, while the ones on the sides are lateral incisors. Incisors are built for slicing. When we take a bite out of an apple, for instance, our incisors shear off a tasty chunk of fruit, but they aren’t the teeth we actually chew with.

Canines

Next to the lateral incisors are our canines, which are the sharpest and longest teeth in our mouths. This enables them to grip and tear food, particularly meat. Unlike incisors, we only have four canines. Their long roots and their position at the “corners” of our dental arches also make them some of the most important teeth in our smiles, because they provide much of the shape. Another name for canine teeth is eyeteeth. That might seem weird, but it’s because these teeth are directly beneath our eyes!

Premolars

After the canines, we have our premolars. You can think of premolars as hybrids between canines and molars. They have sharp outer edges, but they also have flat chewing surfaces, which means they can help the canines with tearing food and the molars with grinding it up. We don’t have any premolars as children; our eight adult premolars are actually the teeth that replace our baby molars!

Molars

Finally, we have the molars. Molars are our biggest teeth, with multiple roots and large, flat chewing surfaces. We have eight baby molars and up to twelve adult molars, depending on whether or not we have and keep our wisdom teeth. Molars are the teeth that do most of the chewing, because those flat surfaces are perfect for grinding and crushing food until it’s ready to be swallowed.

What About Herbivores And Carnivores?

Our teeth are the way they are because we’re omnivores. Herbivores (plant-eaters) and carnivores (meat-eaters) have very different teeth. Herbivores typically have chisel-like incisors and large, flat premolars and molars for chewing plants, while their canines are small, if they have them at all. Carnivores tend to have much bigger canine teeth than we do, but their incisors are much smaller, and while they still have premolars and molars, they are often serrated like knives, built for shredding rather than grinding.

Biannual Visits

What do all four types of your teeth have in common? They need regular attention from a dentist! Keep bringing those incisors, canines, premolars, and molars to see us every six months so that we can make sure they’re all staying healthy. In the meantime, you can do your part by remembering to brush twice a day, floss daily, and cut back on sugary treats!

Test your knowledge and take our quiz!

Now that you’re an expert about the different types of teeth, test your knowledge with our Different Types of Teeth quiz!

baby milk bottle on pink background

Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Sometimes, bedtime can be a real struggle, and a bottle might seem like an easy solution. Unfortunately, putting a baby to bed with a bottle of milk or juice does more harm than good, because the easier bedtime comes at the expense of the baby’s oral health. Keeping those baby teeth healthy is crucial so that the adult teeth will have a better chance of coming in straight.

 

What Is Bottle Rot?

Prolonged exposure to the sugars in milk or juice erodes the enamel on a baby or toddler’s teeth, particularly the central incisors. If you’ve ever heard of the phrase “baby bottle tooth decay” or the more sinister-sounding “bottle rot,” this is what it refers to, and it’s definitely something to avoid. It can also happen with sippy cups and even breastfeeding! If a baby’s gums and teeth aren’t properly cleaned after feeding, the sugary milk residue left in their mouth increases the risk of tooth decay.

 

Stopping Bottle Rot Before It Starts

Preventing bottle rot is simple: only use a bottle for the baby’s mealtimes, not to soothe them or help them fall asleep when they aren’t hungry. A pacifier will be much healthier for their teeth. After the baby reaches six months old, it’s safe to use a bottle of water, or a sippy cup of water for toddlers. Not only will it not cause bottle rot, but it won’t leave stains if it spills!

After every meal, make sure to clean out milk residue. Once baby teeth start appearing, it’s time to start brushing them. Use a soft toothbrush and a dab of toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice. Because babies can’t rinse and spit, make sure to use a non-fluoride toothpaste that is safe to swallow.

 

Treating Existing Bottle Rot

If your baby is already showing signs of tooth decay, come see us! We’ll be able to assess the extent of the decay, deal with any cavities, and come up with a plan to prevent future damage. One of the easiest steps you’ll be able to take at home is to limit their consumption of sugary drinks like juice and soda. You can also bring them to us for fluoride varnish treatments to give their teeth extra protection.

 

We Can Help

We know that parenting is full of unexpected twists and turns, but we’re happy to help you navigate the ones involved in infant and child dental care. Like you, we want your child to have a healthy smile for life! If you haven’t already brought them in for a checkup, schedule one today!

Thank you for being our valued patients!

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