Dummy: should your child have one?
A dummy, or as it is called in many countries, a pacifier is a calming aid for babies and toddlers. Kids can’t continuously regulate their emotions or calm themselves down yet, so sucking on the device is soothing and allows them to focus and settle their negative feelings.
Many parents believe that a dummy is a natural soother for babies, as it replicates the mother’s nipple. To the baby, the action of sucking feels like breastfeeding, says Good. The suckling reflex is, of course, comforting to babies, which is why many young children suck their thumbs. Pacifiers are a safe way for babies to get that suckling reflex satisfaction whilst not breastfeeding.
Some advantages include:
- To set a baby to sleep, especially if they wake up at night.
- Enable self-soothing.
- Dummies can help babies when on a flight. The suckling balances out their ear pressure.
- There is some evidence that dummies can reduce the risk of SIDS.
However, some medical experts admonish the use of a dummy.
Apparently, prolonged or excessive use has parents concerned about ‘dummy teeth’ development.
The effect of a dummy on your child’s teeth and mouth may be damaging – it can have a negative impact on your child’s baby teeth, adult teeth and overall oral health.
Changes to their teeth position and jaw shape are possible, whether they are freq a dummy, a thumb or other fingers. This is why it is essential that a child stops sucking on a dummy at a young age. The younger the age, the greater their chance is to correct teeth and jaw growth problems naturally.
How can a dummy damage the teeth?
Oral problems as a toddler start with a dummy or thumb-sucking. According to Dentaly, the effects of a dummy include:
- Crooked or crowded teeth
- Jaw misalignment
- Biting problems
- Tongue protrusion
- Changes in the roof of the mouth and position of teeth
The longer the dummy is used, the more severe these problems become. Your child may end up needing braces to correct their jaw shape and teeth positioning.
A dummy is a soothing attachment – similar to a blanket or cuddly toy. Weaning your child off either is not as simple as we think. Everyone has different ways in which they approach this problem.
Long-term dummy use
- As mentioned above, using a pacifier over a long period of time can position your child’s teeth incorrectly. In more detail, their upper teeth may be pushed further forward than usual. The top and bottom teeth may not touch after biting. If the teeth don’t touch when your child bites, it can affect their speech development, especially when using s and z sounds.
- More mouth breathing than nose breathing is a possibility, especially when they are sleeping.
- Speech and language problems are probable. If your child has a pacifier in their mouth all the time, it may delay communication and exploring the complete range of tongue movements to make speech sounds.
- Tooth decay, especially the front teeth, can come about if you dip it into sugary substances, like honey and jam.
Motivation to stop using a dummy
Sucking on a dummy is a habit. You are allowed to give your child a chance to break that habit on their own. Some children stop their sucking habits between two and four. Others get bored of dummies in their first year.
If your child becomes too attached, try to stop the dummy use gradually. For example, limit their time with the dummy. Use it only at night or nap times.
Use actions of encouragement, but don’t be too persistent. The process may take a while and several attempts. As a parent, try to be patient. The first few days without a soothing dummy can be the most challenging time.
On rare occasions, if the habit continues into your child’s primary school years, contact oral health professional.
Dummies versus thumb sucking
Studies show that children who suck their thumb or finger have more trouble breaking that habit than children who use a dummy. The advantage of a dummy is it can be taken away from your child while they sleep.
Where to get help
Dummies create problems, like ‘dummy teeth’, which can only be reversed by proper medical care. Your child’s dentist can assist by monitoring their dental health and informing you of any concerns. They can suggest treatments like fluoride gel and dental sealant to protect your child’s teeth.
Besides the dentist, seek help from your maternal and child health nurse. A speech pathologist may also be helpful if a dummy has already started to affect your child’s speech development.
Some children are more prone to teeth problems because of dummies. Orthodontic dummies are a safe alternative. They are designed to fit your baby’s palate, and there is enough room for their tongue to move.
If you feel worried about the emotional consequences of removing your child’s dummy, try replacing it with something else that makes them happy. One dummy-free night means that they are capable of many more. The trick is not to give in!
Always speak to a dental professional about concerns surrounding your baby’s teeth and gums. Affinity Dental has you covered when it comes to proper dental insurance for the whole family.