Pacifier Use & Thumb Sucking

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Babies love their pacifiers, but pacifier use can cause dental problems. The presence of a pacifier can cause developing mouths to grow improperly in some situations, leading to abnormal tooth development and other issues along the way. The long-term use of a pacifier influences the shape of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth, because as babies and toddlers mature physically, their jaws grow around anything held inside on a repeat basis. In fact, overusing pacifiers affects mouth and teeth development in the same way as long-term thumb-sucking, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). As the child’s upper front teeth tip forward, teeth may become crooked and he or she can experience bite problems. There may also be changes in tooth position and jaw alignment. The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests other symptoms of pacifier teeth include the front teeth not meeting when the mouth is closed, and changes to the shape of the roof of the mouth. This can lead to mouth breathing and also sleep apnea. Nevertheless, pacifiers are still beneficial for young babies, and parents can avoid the risk of pacifier teeth by weaning their baby from his/her pacifier by the age of 6 months. Doctors publishing with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) explain that pacifiers actually have a positive influence on kids between one and six months old. Young babies who use pacifiers have a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome; though introducing a pacifier to a baby less than one month old can interfere with the establishment of breastfeeding. The AAFP also warns that pacifiers increase the risk of ear infections in babies older than six months.

Pacifiers safety Tips:

  1. Use one-piece pacifiers without liquid interiors, gadgets or moving parts and make sure wider than babies mouth.
  2. Clean/ Sanitize them regularly and replace when looking worn
  3. Do not attach them by strings to babies’ clothes, crib or car seat as they become a choking hazard
  4. Avoid dipping pacifiers in sweet liquids, which can cause tooth decay.
  5. Do not use in place of meals or to delay meals, only use when you are sure baby is not hungry
  6. Use when putting down to sleep, do not force infant to use or re-insert into sleeping babies mouth.

Intervention Techniques:  * with younger children and older children

  1. Binky Fairy – Comes at night and snatches up all the binky’s in the house and leaves a present for the child to have as a reward for giving it up.
  2. Binky Bear- Go to Build A Bear workshop and put the binky in the bear. This way they can have it but cannot physically get it to put in their mouth.
  3. Have a conversation with a child. Explain the problems it can cause in an easy for them to understand why.
  4. Remind the child- this is good for those children who want to stop the habit, but just needs a reminder. Ideas: put a waterproof bandage on thumb or finger or sock or mitten of hand at bedtime. Make sure your child understands this is a reminder not a punishment.
  5. Use rewards- encourage your child to stop sucking thumb by using something that motivates them to stop.
  6. If none of the above has worked then discuss with your dentist, an appliance can be placed on older children to keep them from sucking on their thumb.

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