Two-word answers: Pacifiers and dental problems

Q:

Can using a pacifier cause dental problems?

A:

Yes, eventually.

Even if you don’t have kids of your own, you probably know that sucking on a pacifier or thumb can help young children feel calm, comfortable and secure. A baby’s sucking reflex is a part of human nature. Even babies still in their mothers’ wombs suck on their thumbs.

However, pacifiers and thumb sucking are not without their downsides. Children who do these behaviors for too many years, can develop problems with their mouth and teeth. Children’s growing jaws can form around anything held in their mouths repeatedly.

Children may develop problems known as “pacifier teeth”

These problems can include:

• Push children’s top front teeth forward so they no longer meet with bottom teeth

• Cause teeth to become crooked and create problems with biting

• Result in changes to the roof of the mouth, position of teeth and jaw alignment

Too much pacifier use can also lead to issues with speaking as kids get older. If they use pacifiers or suck their thumbs past their fourth birthdays, kids are more likely to develop issues.

How can I prevent problems?

Be sure to take your children to the dentist by age 1 to check on their development and bite. Preventive exams are covered 100% by most dental plans. It’s best to wean your children from a pacifier by age 2, before any effects on their developing teeth and mouth. 

Here are some helpful tips for weaning: 

• Praise your children for not using a pacifier.

• Offer tooth-friendly rewards like playtime or toys for pacifier-free days.

• Comfort your children with hugs and attention and affection to help reduce anxiety. 

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