Pacifier Versus Thumb-Sucking: Which Is Better for Your Baby’s Teeth?

Thumb-sucking and pacifiers both have their pros and cons. There will be some parents who are wildly against pacifiers, while others prefer pacifiers over the sucking of a thumb. Dentists prefer to avoid both, but is one option better than the other? Here's a look at the pros and cons of both to help.

Reducing the Risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS is one of the biggest fears for parents. Did you know that using pacifiers is one of the recommendations for reducing the risks of SIDS occurring? One study showed that babies who slept on their stomachs or had mothers who smoked during pregnancy were less likely to develop SIDS because they used pacifiers.

While this isn't purely dental, it is one of the main reasons some parents choose a pacifier over thumb-sucking and is an important point to share. It's also one of the reasons dentists will fall on the side of the pacifier.

Affect to the Mouth Alignment

Eventually, the child needs to find other ways to self-soothe. The thumb-sucking needs to stop, or the pacifier needs to be removed if one is used instead of a thumb. It is much easier to remove a pacifier than a thumb, since the pacifier can be physically taken away. Many children suck when anxious or worried, and you need to teach babies other ways to handle these feelings.

Continued sucking into childhood years is damaging to the alignment of the teeth. The sucking motion pulls the teeth forward, potentially causing an overbite. The muscles also develop incorrectly, as the mouth is forced to take the shape of the thumb.

A More Hygienic Option

There are many questions over which the most hygienic option is. The truth is this will depend on the sterilization and hand-washing routine involved. Either option can be just as bad or as good as the other. However, in most cases, pacifiers are usually better because they are easier to clean and sterilize. Thumbs get dirty, and children put their hands in their mouths before parents get a chance to do anything.

Bacteria are able to develop in the mouth with either of the two. The constant sucking can also stop saliva from filling the mouth and removing all the bacteria, meaning that the teeth and gums are more at risk of decay and disease.

Health professionals are torn on the two types of sucking. For family dentists, there are more benefits to pacifiers. The main benefit is that the pacifier can be removed before the appearance of all the baby teeth, so there is less risk to the alignment.