Using a Pacifier and thumb sucking are habits that babies and toddlers find comforting many times. A baby’s mouth and teeth are developing and taking form around the age that babies use a pacifier. In the same way that thumb sucking can affect baby tooth development and form, a pacifier can do the same. Prolonged pacifier use and/or thumb sucking can cause an open bite. It can lead to front teeth flaring or developing a gap.
Most children stop sucking their thumb between the ages of 2 and 4. It is easier to break the pacifier habit than thumb sucking. Avoid dipping the pacifier in any sweeteners or honey. This can cause baby teeth caries. The American Association of Family Physicians supports the use of pacifiers in the first six months. And studies have shown that the use of a pacifier reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome in the first 6 months by increasing respiratory drive and airway opening. However, after 6 months, there are other concerns about hygiene, or the risk of an ear infection. Also dental effects of using a pacifier often become noticeable by the age of 2.
In a study that covered the dental effects of sucking habits, kids who sucked a digit or used a pacifier had a 71% prevalence of malocclusion (misaligned teeth). The prevalence of malocclusion amongst kids who stopped sucking a digit or pacifier by the age of 2 was 14%. So the length of time and age of a child, is a factor in how much a pacifier will affect their teeth.
Some tips for breaking the pacifier habit include soothing music, rocking the child, or letting them play with toys to distract them. Some kids like going for a stroll or a jog. Sucking on a pacifier or digit is a soothing habit. Finding alternate methods to help the baby or toddler relax can help the behavior lessen gradually. If the child and parent have a hard time breaking the pacifier or sucking habit naturally, speak to a dentist about a habit breaking appliance.
At Museum Smiles Dentistry, we proudly serve patients from Keller, Arlington, and Fort Worth Areas. And would love to be your family dentist. Home care along with establishing a dental home can help preserve your child’s dental health. Call us to schedule a dental consultation. We are conveniently located a few minutes from Downtown Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Children’s Museum.