Sucking is perfectly normal for babies and is very soothing for them; many stop by age 2. Prolonged sucking, however, can create crooked teeth or bite problems. If the habit continues beyond age 3, professional advice is recommended.
And although thumb-sucking and pacifier sucking essentially have the same effects, a pacifier is preferred over the thumb/finger because this habit is a lot easier to control. You can control when and where a pacifier is used. It is a lot more difficult to control a finger or thumb going into the mouth.
American Academy of Pediatric Dentists President Dr. Ed Moody writes:
“The sucking reflex is completely normal and many children will stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between 2 and 4 years of age. Frequent pacifier use over a longer period of time can affect the way a child’s teeth bite together and the growth of the jaw. The upper teeth may tip outward or become crooked and other changes in tooth position or jaw alignment could occur. Intervention may be recommended for children beyond 3 years of age. The earlier a child can stop a sucking habit, the less chance there is that it will lead to orthodontic problems down the road.”
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