Parents have a growing concern about the use of pacifiers these days. And rightly so, pacifiers can lead to pacifier teeth in your babies. ‘Pacifier teeth’ is a broad term given to many anomalies that result from the overuse of pacifiers.
Putting a pacifier in your baby’s mouth now and then is a bad idea. When a baby is in a developmental stage, the changes in the bone structure, teeth structure, and facial development are under the influence of any oral aid that you might use.
Therefore, when you tend to keep a pacifier in your baby’s mouth for long hours, your child’s face might get affected. Changes like gaps between teeth, forwardly placed teeth, forwardly positioned upper jaw, etc. are the most common ill effects of pacifiers.
Pacifiers are a go-to aid for most parents as they calm down your apprehensive baby. They also satisfy the necessary suckling reflexes of your baby, and thus your baby gets calmer.
It is important to wean off your baby from a pacifier at the right time before he/she develops habits like thumb sucking in its place.
There are some home remedies and some conventional therapies like habit breaking appliances for the same.
What is pacifier teeth?
A pacifier soothes and calms your baby. But it is not worth all the ill effects it brings along. If you have a habit of leaving a pacifier in your baby’s mouth for long hours, it is time to reconsider.
‘Pacifier teeth’ is a collective term given to a bunch of teeth and gum problems that occur in your child due to overuse of pacifiers.
Some parents tend to use a pacifier as an aid whenever a baby cries. It calms the baby immediately because babies like to suck on objects and that is their basic reflex.
But these pacifiers when left for long can cause crooked teeth, misaligned teeth, disproportionate jaws, and protruding teeth. Dentists refer to this orthodontic problem as a class two malocclusion.
To correct this malocclusion your child needs to go through fixed orthodontic treatment using wires and braces. So now when you know what pacifier teeth are you need to know the signs your child shows while developing pacifier teeth. (1)
Signs and symptoms
Once your baby starts teething, you may not see the signs immediately. Once your baby is around one year old, and you look at least the four front teeth, you realize the changes in his dentition. You may find the following signs of pacifier teeth –
- Unusual gaps between front teeth
- Forwardly placed upper front teeth
- Forwardly placed upper jaw
- Lower jaw seems smaller than the upper jaw
- Upper lip protrudes out
- Long and narrow face
Is using a pacifier better than thumb sucking habit?
Many parents think that thumb sucking is better than using pacifiers. The truth is, thumb sucking is an equally detrimental habit as a pacifier. Thumb sucking causes all those anomalies in your baby’s mouth as a pacifier.
Thumb sucking can be more damaging as you have no control over its duration. While using pacifiers, you can control the time for which you let your child has it in his mouth.
But when your child shifts to thumb sucking instead, you won’t be able to monitor him all the time, and he may have his numb in his mouth all day. Along with the problems that a pacifier causes like protruding teeth and spacing in teeth, thumb sucking has an added ill effect.
Thumb sucking can cause nail bed infections. Nail bed infection can further progress into hair-nail-skin infections. Hair-nail-skin infection is a severe fungal infection that occurs in children who have a habit of thumb sucking.
How to break the habit?
Breaking the habit of a pacifier is difficult. Once you remove the pacifier from your child’s mouth, he will immediately put his fingers in the mouth. You can use the following methods to irradicate the habit of pacifiers and thumb sucking. (2)
- Maintain a time cycle or a fixed time duration for which you put a pacifier in your baby’s mouth.
- Avoid leaving a pacifier for over an hour.
- Remove the pacifier when your baby sleeps.
- Always make sure that your baby is not sucking his thumb consciously.
- Never leave your baby unattended and nurse your child enough.
- Take proactive steps to remove thumbs or pacifiers from your toddler’s mouth.
- Encourage the child with kind words and reward to make him comply.
You can see a dentist once you have tried all the methods mentioned above and nothing seem to help. Dentists might give the following aids to prevent thumb sucking –
- Thumb guards
- Finger cribs
These are all removable appliances which your dentist incorporates your child’s mouth to stop the habit. (3)
Are pacifier teeth curable?
Pacifier teeth are curable only with orthodontic therapy. Your child will need fixed orthodontic treatment for the duration of 6 months to 1 year depending upon the severity of the condition.
Your child will get rid of pacifier teeth entirely but after a lot of discomfort and long treatment hours. The following are a few treatment modalities –
Over to you
Now that you know the ill effects of pacifiers and a little more about pacifier teeth, my sincerest advice to all parents is to monitor the use of pacifiers. You cannot bail out on pacifiers completely, but you can limit its usage.
See to it that your child doesn’t move on to sucking his thumb instead. Thumb sucking is equally detrimental as pacifiers. Hence, it cannot be an alternative resort to pacifiers. Also, pacifier teeth are curable so no need to get anxious if your child shows some signs.
Visit your dentist at the earliest when you see signs of pacifier teeth. With fixed orthodontic therapy and habit breaking appliances your child will get rid of pacifier teeth.