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The Effects of Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use on the Teeth

Pacifier use and thumb sucking is ingrained in our culture so much so most people don’t think twice about it. However, some activities come with potentially harmful side effects and it’s good to evaluate our habits from time to time.

Could Your Baby’s Pacifier Use Be Harmful?

The last thing you want is to unknowingly allow your child to participate in harmful behavior. If your child uses a pacifier or sucks their thumb, there are some things you’ll want to consider. Use this brief guide to keep your child safe:

Malocclusion of teeth

Malocclusion is a fancy way to refer to the misalignment of your baby’s teeth. It happens as babies and toddlers mature physically while sucking their thumb or using a pacifier. Their jaw basically grows around anything that’s held inside their mouth frequently and repetitively. It can cause an anterior open bite or a posterior crossbite.

The anterior open bite, or negative overbite,  is an obvious gap between the upper and lower teeth while the jaw is closed. Back teeth touch while front teeth do not. With the posterior overbite,  the top teeth become narrower than the bottom teeth. This causes the top teeth to bite down inside the bottom back teeth. These malocclusions affect the appearance of your child’s smile and sometimes lead to speech impediments when not corrected.

Contamination of teeth and gums

Sometimes parents dip pacifiers in sugar, honey, syrup, or other sweet liquids to encourage babies to receive a pacifier. This coats gums and teeth in sugar which lead to plaque accumulation over time. In addition,  some parents also use their own saliva to clean a pacifier when dropped. This introduces additional bacteria to your baby’s gums and teeth.

How Can You Protect Your Child’s Teeth?

Discouraging pacifier use and thumb sucking is ideal. However, if your child engages in either activity, here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t dip your child’s pacifier in sweet liquids.
  • Clean your baby’s pacifier with mild soap and warm water.
  • Only allow your child to use a pacifier at bedtime.
  • Plan to wean pacifier use and thumb sucking by the age of 2.

Healthy Teeth, Happy Smile

So much growth and development that takes place in the early stages of life has the potential to affect us even as adults. The way we treat and take care of our teeth is no exception. Use this guide to thumb sucking and pacifier use to ensure your children have the best smile possible.

To learn more about optimal oral hygiene for young children or to make an appointment, Contact Us.