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Pacifiers and Tooth Problems

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Pacifiers and Tooth Problems

Sucking is a natural reflex that babies first start to develop and practice even before they are born. Sucking is a normal part of development that is comforting to children well into their first years of life.

In fact, sucking often brings comfort even after a child no longer needs to get nourishment from a breast or bottle. Many children find comfort by sucking on hands, fingers or pacifiers. Parents often wonder if these sucking habits can create a problem for a child’s teeth or mouth.

During a child’s first few years, sucking habits probably won’t damage his or her mouth. But frequent and long-term sucking can cause problems. This is especially true if the habit continues after baby teeth start to fall out. Long-term sucking can cause: the top front teeth to slant out; the bottom front teeth to tilt in; the upper and lower jaws to be misaligned; and the roof of the mouth to be narrower side to side.

Here are a few things to consider if your child uses a pacifier:

• Buy products that are constructed as one piece. There shouldn’t be any parts that can break off and potentially be swallowed or breathed into the lungs.

• Never fasten a pacifier on a string or necklace around your child’s neck. Your baby could accidentally be strangled.

• Offer your child a pacifier that is marketed as orthodontically correct. This type may not affect the teeth as much.

• Don’t try to calm a fussy baby by dipping a pacifier in honey or sugary water. This will increase your child’s risk of tooth decay.

• Use positive reinforcement to encourage older children to give up the pacifier.

Dr. William Wolfson is one of five dentists at Morris Park Dental, which emphasizes general family dental care as well as cosmetic procedures. The office is available to provide more information at (718) 863-5077, or visit Morris Park Dental on-line at www.DRsmile.net.

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