Do Pacifiers Affect Tooth Development?
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Do Pacifiers Affect Tooth Development?

A young child sucking their thumb

When they're born, babies have a natural sucking reflex, and it has been found through ultrasound photos that even some unborn babies suck their thumb in the womb. Since thumb-sucking is such a natural reflex, most experts agree that, in moderation, some thumb sucking is harmless. However, after the age of two, thumb-sucking and pacifier use could affect your child's dental growth.

Younger babies can suck their thumb or use a pacifier without it causing any issues. However, older babies and toddlers may alter the formation of the teeth and mouths by overdoing it. Sucking on their thumb or pacifier over the age of two may result in misaligned teeth, an overbite, or other dental issues.

Pacifier Use & Malocclusions

If a child is still regularly using a pacifier or sucking their thumb through their preschool years, it may create a malocclusion. A malocclusion refers to the problem of misalignment as your child's teeth begin to grow in. The teeth and jaws will grow around objects that are frequently and regularly held in the mouth. Eventually, this can cause a posterior crossbite (when the back molars don't fit together correctly) or an anterior open bite.

An anterior open bite is a noticeable gap between the upper and lower and upper teeth, most apparent when the mouth is closed. With an anterior open bite, the rear molars fit together when the jaw is closed, but the front incisors will not meet.

If an adult suffers from these particular orthodontic issues, childhood pacifier use or thumb sucking may be the source. These problems can affect the appearance of your child's smile, causing self-esteem issues, and may even lead to difficulties with speech in severe cases.

If your baby or toddler sucks his or her thumb or a pacifier, don’t be concerned! As long as you wean them from pacifiers before the age of two, their smile will be unaffected. If you’re having a difficult time helping your child break the thumb-sucking habit, or if you’re concerned that this habit has already affected their smile, make an appointment here at Little Smiles of Delaware. Our Delaware, Ohio, children’s dentist is here to answer questions or address your concerns.

Posted on Nov 23, 2020

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