Sucking is a normal part of early child development.
It’s a natural reflex that comforts infants well the first couple of years.
In fact, babies who suck their thumb or fists soon after childbirth have probably been doing so in their mother’s womb.
Evidence suggests that babies born with “sucking blisters” on their wrist, hand, or arm, studies might start as early as 15 weeks of the pregnancy.
Comfort sucking or non-nutritive sucking, as it is medically called, brings comfort even after a child no longer needs bottle or breastfeeding.
It gives them a sense of security and a method of self-relaxation.
Now parents are wondering if these sucking reflexes can create a negative impact on the child’s oral health.
The Do’s and Don’t’s of Pacifier Safety
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, when children reach between the age of 2 to 4, they will most likely discontinue the use of a pacifier on their own. Prolonged pacifier use can lead to various complications, including the slanting in of the top and front teeth and the titling of the bottom teeth. Upper and lower jaw misalignment can also possibly happen, as well as the narrowing of the mouth roof.
As much as it is important to diminish the likelihood of long-term use to avoid these oral issues, there are also simple do’s and don’t’s that any parent should remember when giving their children a pacifier.
- Use a one-piece pacifier made from natural rubber or silicone to closely simulate a mother’s nipple. A soother that is soft enough to flatten out against the roof of the baby’s mouth will not cause any jaw misalignment.
- Regularly check the pacifier, especially two-piece types, for any damage. This kind of soother is at greater risk of failing between the juncture where the parts are attached, creating a potential choking hazard.
- Replace pacifiers as soon as when the nipples become sticky, change color, torn, or cracked or every two to three months, whichever comes first.
- Tie pacifiers around the baby’s neck as it presents injury and even death.
- Suck your child’s pacifier to clean it out. Although unique, this common practice, exposes the child to transmittable microbial diseases, which can lead to dental caries.
- Coat the soother with syrup, honey, or other sweeteners as these can cause cavities. It is not advisable to feed children below the age of 12 months with honey.
Bottle Feeding and Tooth Decay
Most children continue to satiate their sucking reflexes by using a sippy cup or bottle as a pacifier. Some parents allow their babies to breastfeed even if the need is no longer for nutritional satisfaction. Frequent sipping or sucking of sugar-rich fluids increases the threat of early cavity development in children.
When carbohydrates, in the form of sugar, are ingested, they react with the bacteria of the mouth triggering the occurrence and advancement of tooth decay. The increased frequency of eating, snacking, and drinking of sugary fluids and foods for children at a very young age increases their risk of developing early childhood caries or baby bottle tooth decay.
This condition can lead to painful dental abscesses that can interfere with sleeping, eating, playing, and learning. Children suffering from severe tooth decay may be recommended to undergo a teeth removal procedure or root canal treatment which likewise necessitate the administration of a general anesthetic.
Preventive Measures Against Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
- Do not let your child continually use a pacifier or feeding bottle for comfort.
- Wipe your child’s gums and teeth immediately after each feeding. Use a wet washcloth or gauze pad.
- From around the age of 3 to 6, brush your child’s teeth with a pea-sized fluoride toothpaste.
- Be sure to use fluoridated water. If your water system is not supplemented with fluoride, ask your dentist about how you can manage your child’s fluoride needs.
- Encourage your child to use a cup when drinking as early as his or her first birthday.
- Let your infant finish their bedtime or naptime bottles prior to sleeping.
- Promote healthy eating habits.
The importance of keeping baby teeth healthy extends long after babyhood. As an example, the removal of a baby tooth can lead to the over-crowding or over-spacing of adult teeth. Parents who often struggle with weaning their baby’s off a pacifier or a feeding bottle should initiate proactive intervention methods to avoid the negative effects of prolonged use.