Out With the Old and In With the New…Habits! {Legacy Pediatric & Adolescent Dentistry}

With 2013 in the rear view mirror and 2014 beginning, it is a time for goals and New Year’s resolutions to be made. These goals and resolutions can result in new habits being formed or old habits being broken. For your kids and dental health, there are a few habits that are important to be aware of so you can be prepared.

liz & niece paciThe pacifier is a habit that is developed early in a child’s life. It is often used as a soothing mechanism. Some studies have found that as many as 90% of children have had some history of a pacifier or thumb habit. The habit is considered normal for the first 2 years of a child’s life. Prolonged use of the pacifier can lead to problems with a child’s bite {the way the teeth come together}. It can also lead to the need for orthodontics {braces} later in the child’s life. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it is recommended to stop the pacifier habit by the age of 3. It is best to not attempt to break habits during a big life change that is going on with your child {for example potty training, moving or starting a new school or daycare, etc.}.

In regards to pacifier care, it is important to keep them clean while the habit persists. Pacifiers can hold bacteria which can lead to plaque {build-up} or cavities on the teeth if they are not kept clean. You should also brush the teeth before giving the pacifier to your child if possible to ensure that food and drink do not coat the pacifier. The pacifier should not be dipped in anything before giving it to your child.

Along the same lines as the pacifier is sucking the thumb or finger habit. This habit carries the same possible complications that the pacifier does in that prolonged duration can cause problems with the proper growth and alignment of the teeth. In general, a finger or thumb habit tends to persist longer than a pacifier habit. Coming from a former thumb sucker, I have personal experience of this being a tough habit to break and I have many years of orthodontic care to show for it.

A few ways to recommend breaking the habit when both you and your child are ready:

  • Praise or encouragement for your child when they do not use the pacifier or suck their finger or thumb.
  • Use a sticker chart: place a sticker on the chart for every day they do not engage in the habit, and have a goal that leads to a prize.
  • Encourage your children to give their pacifiers to the “Paci Fairy” who “takes them to children who need them” in exchange for a prize – this can be done like the Tooth Fairy where the pacifier is placed in a special place at night and the “Paci Fairy” comes to switch it for a surprise. (We have a “paci bucket” at our office where the child deposits their pacifier and receives a special prize and much praise.)
  • Read the book David Decides About Thumbsucking with your child to help them make the decision to stop a thumb-sucking habit.
  • Reminders for thumb or finger habits such as putting a band-aid on the finger so that the taste reminds the child not to suck on the finger.

paci bucketIf you child has one of these habits (pacifier or thumb/finger), it is extremely important to keep your pediatric dentist informed at your biannual preventative visits. If the habit continues past the recommended age of cessation, corrective orthodontic procedures such as expanders or braces may be necessary in the future.


IMG_6877Dr. Dan Doss grew up in Kemp, Texas before making the move to Fort Worth to attend TCU. He attended dental school and a two-year residency in the specialty of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston. He has been married to Maureen (Mo) for 33 years and has two grown children, Michael and Kaydee and daughter in law Megan. He is excited to welcome his first granddaughter in March 2014. He enjoys reading, playing golf and spending time with family and friends.

Dr. Liz Gold grew up in Palestine, TX. She attended Texas A&M University where she graduated in 2006 and proceeded to continue her education at the University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston where she completed both dental school and residency. She has 4 siblings and 3 in-laws and has recently become an aunt to Luke (22 months) and Emma (3 months). In her free time she enjoys traveling, running, Aggie football games and spending time with family and friends.

Dr. Doss and Dr. Gold practice at Legacy Pediatric & Adolescent Dentistry in Southwest Fort Worth. They are both Diplomates of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and members of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry as well as local, state and national dental societies.


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