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🦷👍 8 Tips to Help Kids Break a Habit for Pacifiers and Finger-Sucking

If your child is preschool age (or older) and still using a pacifier or finger-sucking, we have 8 parent approved tips that may help your little one to wean their habit. Because prolonged use of pacifiers or finger-sucking can require extensive dental correction and braces, we want to equip parents with positive ideas to help your little one. If you have any questions along the way, our team at Sunshine Children’s Dentistry would be honored to provide guidance and insight!

In this article, we will address the problems children may encounter from prolonged use of pacifiers and finger-sucking, benefits and drawbacks of pacifiers for babies, and 8 tips to help kids break their habit.

8 Tips to help kids break a habit for Pacifiers and Finger-sucking

WHY IS IT A PROBLEM? Babies naturally have a sucking reflex – it originated in the womb and serves as a natural self-soothing coping mechanism. But as children age, they risk negatively impacting their teeth and oral health if they have a prolonged habit of using pacifiers or finger-sucking. Frequent finger-sucking or pacifier use after the preschool age can cause several problems, such as:

  • Damage the eruption and shape of permanent teeth

  • Open Bite (top teeth slant outwards, bottom teeth tilt inwards)

  • Misalignment of the jaw (such as an overbite)

  • Misshaped roof of the mouth

  • Crowding of teeth or crooked teeth

Benefits and Drawbacks of Pacifiers for Babies

BENEFITS OF PACIFIERS FOR BABIES: While a child is a baby, there are numerous benefits of using pacifiers to satisfy their natural sucking reflex. Pacifiers can calm the baby between feedings, help the baby drift off to sleep, relax the baby during travel, sooth the baby during uncomfortable procedures, and some studies suggest a reduced risk of SIDS while sleeping. Additionally, a pacifier is disposable and therefore an easier habit to nip than finger-sucking.

DRAWBACKS OF PACIFIERS: A child may become too dependent on their pacifier. This may disrupt the baby’s feeding schedule (especially breastfeeding during the newborn stage), cause misalignment of teeth later on, and extended use may be a culprit of ear infections.

Because prolonged use of pacifiers or finger-sucking can require extensive dental correction and braces, we want to equip parents with positive ideas to help your little one.



1. TAKE NOTICE OF THE WHEN AND WHERE: Be aware of WHEN and WHERE your preschool aged child usually wants to suck their fingers or use a pacifier. Identifying the triggers will help you to figure out positive ways to fill the void and replace their “need” for their pacifier or finger-sucking. For example, do they need additional soothing when they are tired, scared, anxious, or away from home? Providing additional snuggles and encouragement can help a child feel secure. Timing is important, too, so choose a time period that feels steady rather than during a season of change (new school, sibling, home, etc.).

How to break a thumb sucking or pacifier habit

2. SET A GOAL TOGETHER: Start with a discussion of why it is important to have healthy oral habits, and explain what that looks like. Help your child feel excited about becoming an independent “big kid”. Start small with little milestones, such as at home. Then work on additional settings such as car rides, activities, etc.

3. FOCUS ON POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: Be sure to offer plenty of encouragement and be your child’s biggest cheerleader throughout the entire process. For example, offer praise when your child leaves their pacifier home or is choosing not to suck their fingers in a setting that they usually do. Approach everything with gentleness, and remember that it may be hard for your child to give up their security device. Kindness sparks motivation.

4. EDUCATE THEM OF THE REPERCUSSIONS: It may be in your child’s best interest to understand why they should drop their habit. Allowing your child to watch some videos on YouTube that show other kids with unpleasant side effects (jaw misalignment, crooked teeth, etc.) may quickly encourage them to make positive changes. Remind your little one that germs are spread more easily when we are putting things into our mouths, and that we want to avoid the spreading of germs. Dropping a habit is much easier when a person wants to participate.

Tooth Fairy to take away the pacifier

5. CREATE A COUNTDOWN TO “CAN-DO”: In your child’s mind, ending their habit may feel impossible and frightening. But reinforce a can-do attitude for your little one. You and your child can create a “big kid plan” and schedule a countdown. On the big day, they can exchange their pacifier for a special toy or experience. Or invite the Tooth Fairy to come take their pacifier from under their pillow on a particular night and leave a treasure in exchange.

6. GO COLD TURKEY: Some parents decide that a cold-turkey approach works better. Perhaps during a family trip, leave the pacifier at home. Your child may learn that they don’t need it any longer.

7. MAKE THEIR HABIT LESS DESIREABLE: Some families opt for a slow and steady technique for ending reliance on finger-sucking or pacifiers. An unpleasant flavor on their finger or pacifier, such as white vinegar or over the counter products, can be helpful. Some parents snip the tip off a pacifier so that the texture is undesirable. Eventually the child loses interest.

8. POSITIVE PEER-PRESSURE: Many children decide on their own that finger-sucking or using pacifiers is too babyish once they are around other big kids. A preschool setting, extracurricular activity, or playdate group may be just the positive peer-pressure encouragement your little one needs.

REMEMBER: Celebrate their achievements! Offer rewards and praise. Verbalize how proud you are of their accomplishment to drop their habit and graduate as a big kid. And if you ever need help or guidance, we at Sunshine Children’s Dentistry are always a resource for you!


The Sunshine Children's Dentistry LOVES our patients! Your family is a blessing to everyone at our office. If you ever need to reach us, our number is 910.762.7736.

For more helpful resources and fun activities, be sure to read our other Blog Articles.


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