Many parents rely on pacifiers to provide their babies with comfort. A pacifier soothes a fussy baby, works as a sleep aid, and can serve as a temporary distraction. Unfortunately, parents shouldn’t rely on pacifiers long-term for their children. Constantly using a pacifier can lead to long-term problems with your child’s dental development.
Rhoades Dentistry is a full-service dental practice offering pediatric dentistry to patients in the greater Kansas City area. Today we’re going to discuss how long-term pacifier use affects your child’s teeth.
Can Pacifiers Mess Up a Child’s Teeth?
Long-term pacifier use can mess up a child’s teeth. More specifically, it can lead to crooked teeth, buck teeth, and overbites in children. When babies rely on pacifiers for too long, it can lead to a myriad of dental problems that require dental care. Here is a look at some common dental issues due to pacifiers:
- Open bite: An open bite is a type of misalignment that causes the teeth to angle outward. Children with an open bite may have teeth that don’t completely close or touch even when they close their mouths. You may also notice large spaces between their front teeth.
- Overbite: An overbite is when the top teeth cover the bottom teeth more than what is natural.
- Protruding Front teeth: Also known as buck teeth, protruding front teeth are a hereditary condition that can’t be prevented. But activities like thumb sucking and long-term pacifier use can lead to this dental problem.
- Changes to the Roof of the Mouth: Using pacifiers long-term can cause a misshaping of the roof of the mouth.
Misalignment issues are the most common problems resulting from long-term pacifier use. But it can also lead to other serious issues. In extreme circumstances, allowing your child to use a pacifier for too long can cause gingival recession and cavities. The risk for these problems increases when parents dip pacifiers in sweet substances.
What Are Pacifier Teeth?
Did you know that tooth development begins in the womb and continues throughout childhood? While teeth grow, anything inserted in the mouth for too long can compromise teeth development.
Pacifier teeth are misalignments that arise from the extended use of pacifiers in children or from thumb sucking. These alignments occur because the sucking action disturbs the natural alignment of the teeth.
There are certain factors that play a role in whether a child develops a misalignment, how severe it is, and how quickly it develops. The primary factor is the intensity of sucking that occurred.
How to Fix Pacifier Teeth
If your child has already developed pacifier teeth, you still have options. It’s always essential to consult with a dentist about the best course of action. Here at Rhoades Dentistry, we provide comprehensive dental services to help get your child’s teeth on the right track. There are a few options when it comes to fixing pacifier teeth, including:
Investing in braces is one of the best options for children. Braces correct several types of misalignments in children and adults. It is also an effective option when it comes to treating a variety of misalignments that result from long-term pacifier use. Braces will make the appropriate jaw adjustments to fix problems, such as crooked teeth, and solve issues related to bite malocclusion.
A palatal expander is an oral device used to widen the upper jaw. It allows children to regain the natural position of their jaw and teeth that shifted due to extended pacifier use. Palatal expanders can also fix the alignment of the mouth’s roof, which is another common problem associated with long-term pacifier use.
Depending on the severity of the misalignment, surgery may be the recommended option for children. Usually, surgery is recommended in situations where one or more teeth need removal.
When Should Kids Stop Using Pacifiers?
Deciding the right time to wean your child off their pacifier is essential to proper teeth development. It is suggested that parents stop pacifier use between the ages of two and four years old. To reduce the risk of misalignment issues, it’s best to throw out pacifiers by age three.
How Can I Wean My Child Off the Pacifier?
Getting a child to stop relying on a pacifier is perhaps one of the hardest things for parents. But with the right tips, parents can help wean their child off the pacifier almost seamlessly.
- Monitor Habits: Pay attention to when your child is actually sucking. Some babies suck for comfort, but others suck just because the pacifier is available.
- Gradually Reduce Pacifier Use: You can start eliminating the pacifier by removing it the moment your child doesn’t actually need it. You may need to offer your child other forms of stimulation to keep them distracted, such as a rattle or swinging chair.
- Delay Giving the Pacifier: Some babies have a hard time coming off of a pacifier. Rather than eliminating it altogether, try delaying when you give them the pacifier when they’re crying for it.
In all cases, it’s best to wean your child off the pacifier in the most gentle way possible. Preventing long-term pacifier use is essential, but it is also an adjustment for your child.
Does Thumb Sucking Also Cause Problems?
Sucking is a natural reflex for children, but it can have a negative effect on your child’s teeth. Thumbsucking generally causes problems after teeth start to grow.. Like a pacifier, thumbsucking can lead to misalignments in the teeth and cause changes to the roof of the mouth. Thumbsucking can also affect speech and teeth patterns, leading to problems like a lisp.
Children typically begin thumbsucking once their front primary teeth are about to erupt. With that said, you may notice thumbsucking if your child is between two and four years old. If your child is a thumbsucker, it’s essential to wean them from doing it.
Treat Misalignments with Rhoades Dentistry
Does your child have a misalignment resulting from long-term pacifier use? It’s essential to give your child the proper dental care they need to prevent further dental health issues.
At Rhoades Dentistry, we are a full-service dental practice serving the Kansas City area. We offer pediatric dentistry to provide children with a healthy foundation and help them correct common dental issues. Contact us today to learn more about our dental services.