A pacifier is one of those things that have been subject to a lot of debate in the parenting world in recent years. There is a huge amount of conflicting information out there when it comes to whether or not your baby should be given a pacifier, as well as when you should give them one. At Bellaire Dental, we can’t say for certain whether or not a pacifier is right for your infant, but we can discuss this from an orthodontic perspective. The goal of this post is to give you as much insight as possible into pacifiers and teething.
How Long Can a Baby Use a Pacifier?
There is a natural sucking reflex that babies have when they are born. It has even been reported that some babies start sucking their thumbs and fingers even while they are in the womb! This helps them to relax and aids in their self-soothing. Also, infants learn about the world around them by putting objects in their mouths, such as thumbs and pacifiers, as they put them into their mouths. In fact, it’s perfectly normal for babies to suck their thumbs or use pacifiers at this stage in their development, so there is no need for parents to worry about it.
The act of sucking on your thumb, a finger, or a pacifier may seem acceptable during the infant stage, but eventually, you will need to get your child to stop sucking on their thumbs or to stop using their pacifiers as well. There is no doubt that breaking the habit of sucking one’s thumb is much more difficult than breaking the habit of sucking one’s pacifier since the thumb is attached to the body.
In one way or another, this is one of the reasons why many parents like to offer pacifiers to their babies during their first few months of life, even if they are not able to afford one. In addition, there have been studies conducted on pacifiers and the risk of SIDS that have shown that giving a newborn a pacifier at sleep time can help decrease the chance of the baby succumbing to SIDS. As you can see from the above facts, pacifiers are not harmful to babies, and in fact, they might even offer some benefits to them.
What are the effects of Pacifiers on teeth?
In response to the original question, can pacifiers cause dental problems? Depending on the situation. Infants don’t need to worry about their teeth while they’re using pacifiers, especially since they don’t even have all of their teeth yet. When pacifier use is prolonged, it can cause misaligned teeth and orthodontic issues, especially if permanent teeth are coming in when the habit is still in place. Children who vigorously suck on their pacifiers may experience issues with their primary teeth as well, as evidenced by a popping noise when they take them out of their mouths.
There are several different types of malocclusions (improper bites) that can occur as a result of prolonged and/or vigorous pacifier use, including:
- Teeth Protruding – The use of pacifiers or sucking on the thumb is often associated with taking pressure off the top front teeth, causing them to protrude dramatically. This phenomenon is often known as the “buck teeth,” because when the front teeth protrude, they are more likely to be damaged than other teeth.
- Pacifier overbite – An overbite is another common dental problem associated with the use of pacifiers. The top teeth are positioned too far in front of the lower teeth when the mouth is closed. Generally, orthodontic treatment for an overbite is recommended when the space between the upper and lower teeth reaches a certain size because it can cause uneven wear of teeth, cause front teeth to become susceptible to injury and cause jaw pain.
- An anterior open bite – A person’s open bite can be caused by a number of situations, including oral habits like using pacifiers. It is important to note that when a person has an anterior open bite, the top and bottom front teeth do not meet when their jaws are closed. Having difficulty biting into food and chewing can lead to speech problems as well as make biting into food and chewing difficult.
- Dental spacing – Spacing, also known as gap teeth, occurs when there are gaps between two or more teeth. The constant pressure from pacifiers or thumbs can lead to gaps between teeth as a result of constant pressure. Depending on the severity, gaps or spacing can occur on their own or in combination with other issues such as an overbite.
- Crossbite posterior – A posterior crossbite can be caused by the use of pacifiers. A situation in which some of the back lower teeth are positioned in front of the top teeth is called a frontal incisor problem. Unless this issue is addressed early, a patient moving their jaw one way or another to accommodate molars can result in permanent changes to their facial structure.
- Changing the roof of the mouth – The use of pacifiers for an extended period of time can alter the roof of the mouth and interfere with proper development, causing the roof to narrow and the distance between molars to decrease.
How do Pacifier Teeth work?
In other words, what do pacifier teeth do? How do pacifier teeth look? There are a variety of orthodontic concerns that can arise from the use of pacifiers listed above, and they are sometimes lumped together under the term “pacifier teeth.” Basically, pacifier teeth are teeth that are misaligned as a consequence of using a pacifier or thumb-sucking.
The front teeth tend to stick out quite a bit and, in certain cases, this is often coupled with other problems such as the back molars not fitting together properly (posterior crossbite) or the front teeth being so far tipped forward that they do not fit together properly (overbite) or do not meet at all (anterior open bite). There is also a possibility that the teeth of the pacifier may be crooked or that their spaces may be large.
What you need to do to fix pacifier teeth
A child’s teeth cannot shift into place on their own as they grow older if they have been damaged by pacifier use. An orthodontist will be able to address any changes that occur to the roof of the mouth, jaws, or teeth that need to be addressed. Fortunately, there is some good news: if we can detect developmental issues early in the growth of a patient while they are still growing, we can guide the growth of their jaw and the eruption of the permanent teeth by intercepting the problem early. In the long run, this will prevent more serious issues and make the treatment process easier in the future.
Dr David B. Fisher will use certain appliances during phase 1 orthodontic treatment to ensure proper jaw development. This will ensure the jaws align correctly and the permanent teeth fit properly. Once their teeth are aligned, they will finish phase 2 orthodontic treatment using braces or Invisalign Teen.
As a result, it is important that kids see an orthodontist for an evaluation by age seven, as recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists. The negative effects of pacifier use can be corrected much more effectively at this stage by manipulating jaw growth. Having all of the permanent teeth and having completed their jaw growth will make fixing the issue more difficult.
When Should Babies Stop Using Pacifiers?
Taking away the pacifier from a baby’s mouth is advisable in the second six months of his or her life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, as this can reduce the risk of otitis media. A pacifier can also be removed easier at this point than when a child gets older.
What is the recommended age when babies should stop using pacifiers? The use of pacifiers can have an adverse effect on some little ones as early as 24 months. In most cases, this occurs when the baby sucks on the pacifier excessively and uses it constantly. Generally, kids do not develop malocclusions from pacifiers until they are older than four. It is much more likely that kids will face orthodontic issues after the age of four, particularly if they start losing their teeth. Most pacifier teeth issues will be avoided if your child can wean from the pacifier by age two.
If parents do not intervene before two to four years of age, most kids will stop using pacifiers and thumb-sucking on their own. It is essential that you make a concerted effort to break your child’s pacifier habit by the age of four and, if you are not successful, seek guidance from a pediatric dentist.
Why You Should Stop Using Pacifiers
While pacifier teeth can be fixed, weaning a child early from the pacifier is always preferable in order to prevent misaligned teeth or malocclusions. While taking away a baby’s pacifier by age one or two sounds great in theory, it can be challenging for some parents. The pacifier may become the main means of self-soothing for young children as well as a means of falling asleep. The following suggestions may help to stop little ones from using pacifiers:
- Cold Turkey – You can take away the pacifier from your child when they reach the age of one or any other predetermined age. In advance, inform your child that his or her pacifier will be gone on a certain date. Although your child may cry or throw tantrums, you need to remain strong and not give in. Children usually handle it well and quickly adapt in less than a week, although there may be some tears and sleepless nights.
- Make Gradual Changes – Your child knows best and cold turkey may not work for every family. The use of pacifiers can also be gradually discontinued. When your child is playing and happy, start removing the pacifier. In most cases, they won’t notice it’s not in their mouth because they’ll be distracted by something else. Several weeks into the process, you should only use the pacifier at home and not bring it anywhere else. Babies and toddlers will not miss their pacifiers when they are in a new environment since they are often stimulated and excited. You can eventually transition to only giving your baby their pacifier at night and when they’re in their crib for naps. Before completely removing the pacifier from your baby, keep reducing it until they only use it at night.
- Teaching alternative coping mechanisms – Babies soothe themselves by sucking on pacifiers. It is possible that their sleep patterns and behaviour will change once the pacifier is gone. When they’re frustrated or sad, teach them new ways to cope, such as cuddling, talking about what’s bothering them (if they’re older), or taking deep breaths. In cases where the habit stems from anxiety, addressing what’s making your child anxious will be useful.
- Create a Bedtime Routine – It’s always recommended to have a bedtime routine, however, it’s even more important when pacifier use is stopped since pacifiers have been known to help infants fall asleep. Instead of removing the pacifier, replace it with a soothing bedtime routine. Turn off the television and other devices when it’s getting close to bedtime, and keep the house quiet. If you want to help your baby unwind, give them a bath and spend some time snuggling with them or reading a book together.
- Distraction is helpful – The first few days after pacifier removal can be challenging. To distract your fussy baby, try to distract them with something fun. Consider going for a walk, reading a book, or playing a game. It won’t take long for your child to forget their pacifier and fussiness won’t last forever.
- Providing positive reinforcement – Once your child has given up the pacifier, if they are having problems adjusting, tell them how proud you are of them for being such a big boy or girl. When they turn to their pacifier to soothe themselves, praise them if they do something else. While positive reinforcement can be powerful, if your child doesn’t seem bothered when you take away his or her pacifier, it might not be a good idea to keep bringing up the lack of a pacifier, even if you are using positive reinforcement, since it will just remind the child that the pacifier is gone.
- Getting help – If you haven’t been able to take your child’s pacifier away for some time, and you notice teeth effects from pacifier use or your child is over four, it’s time to see their pediatric dentist. If your child uses a pacifier or has other oral habits, you may wish to consult your child’s dentist for further advice.
As you can see, pacifiers are bad for teeth with prolonged use, but if you decide to give a newborn a pacifier, you can rest assured that with early weaning, they won’t be negatively affected. David Fishers Cosmetic & General Dentistry offers complimentary consultations for kids who have bite problems or misaligned teeth due to pacifier use or other habits like thumb sucking! You can decide whether to have your child treated early or wait until they are older after we evaluate your child. By requesting an appointment online or calling 7136678080 you can schedule your child’s visit.