Soothing an infant is sometimes not easy, and a little help could go a long way in saving parents the laborious task. Thanks to pacifiers, many parents can breathe a sigh of relief since babies naturally suck on anything to help them feel calm and relaxed.
Sucking thumbs, other fingers, pacifiers, and various objects is a natural way for infants to self-soothe, explore the world, feel secure, and fall asleep. Besides soothing the baby, pacifiers aid in weaning, reduce the risk of sudden infant syndrome (SIDS), and ease discomfort in nursing premature babies.
Pacifiers are perfectly safe to use without causing any damage to the teeth or jaws so long as the habit doesn’t take too long to break. The practice can only become problematic if it continues for years, but fortunately, most kids outgrow it before permanent dental issues occur.
Possible Dental Issues Caused by Pacifiers
Although pacifiers have some benefits, prolonged sucking can eventually lead to crooked teeth or bite problems. Thumb-sucking and pacifiers can affect the proper growth and alignment of teeth. They can also affect how an infant’s mouth develops, mainly on the roof, as it constantly tries to accommodate the presence of a foreign body. Excessive use of pacifiers can lead to:
1. Misaligned Bites
Older kids who suck pacifiers for long might develop misaligned bites, including open bites, overbites, buck teeth, and crossbites. Prolonged usage of pacifiers can lead to malocclusion as teeth move from their original position to accommodate the foreign object. Children who suck their thumbs or pacifiers beyond two years are more prone to this condition.
2. Gingival Recession & Cavities
Some cases of gingival recession/gum loss and pediatric cavities can be linked to excessive pacifier usage. However, these oral conditions can also be consequences of dipping pacifiers in some sweet stuff. Exposure of teeth and gums to sugar encourages plaque buildup, which causes cavities.
Using Pacifiers Responsibly
There is no problem in using pacifiers as long as proper hygiene is upheld and the time to win a child of the habit is kept. However, it would be best not to share pacifiers between children as this is gross and can expose kids to bacteria, encourage cavities, and cause cross infections. Get the right size for your child’s age, and do not be tempted to dip it in any sweet substances to encourage adoption.
You should also note the intensity of your child is sucking their pacifier or thumb. Babies that passively suck the pacifier or thumb are less likely to develop baby teeth problems than those who suck vigorously. You might need to try and wean your child earlier or limit their access to the pacifier if this is the case. Finally, avoid pacifiers that are not one piece and always clean the pacifier regularly.
Breaking the Habit
Most kids outgrow the habit between two to four years or when their permanent teeth are about to erupt. However, if you notice a change in your baby’s primary teeth or are concerned about their pacifier sucking habit, you might need to consult your trusted pediatric dentist. The dentist can recommend a mouth appliance that can help break the habit. You could also use encouragement and praise and reprimand them less to help your child get over the practice.
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