Dental Problems with Prolong Usage of Pacifier
Dr Gordon Tam B.D.S. (Singapore)
These problems are not really “teeth problem” but teeth alignment problem. The teeth do not grow out at the best location as the upper jaw bone is at the wrong place or the jaw is not large enough to accommodate all the teeth in a perfect arched position. As the teeth are hard tissues which will not alter their shape to suit the environment, they will naturally find place to erupt and ended up at In-and-Out position along the dental arch.
During suckling action, a negative pressure environment is created inside the oral cavity. This negative pressure will restrict the growth of the upper jaw development if it sustains for long period of time. The upper jaw therefore unable to grow “outward” naturally.
With the use of conventional pacifier which is round in shape at the base, it will encourage outward growth of the front portion of the upper jaw. The upper jaw will likely form a narrow U-shape as shown in the photograph on the left. An orthodontic pacifier causes less distortion to the jaw and teeth.
Naturally, most babies will stop using pacifier at the age of 2. A study in The Journal of the American Dental Association has shown that children who continue to suckle a thumb, finger or pacifier past age 2 increase their risk of developing protruding front teeth and an improper bite with narrowing of the upper jaw relative to the lower jaw, known as cross-bite.
The use of pacifier should be strongly discouraged after the age of 4. Extended usage of pacifier after 4 years old may cause the eruption of upper permanent incisors at a protruding angle – The Bugs Bunny’s Teeth.
As a child matures, American Association of Pediatrician (AAP) recommends ignoring your child’s suckling habits as the first step. If that doesn’t work, it is recommended to try diverting your child’s attention with activities that he or she finds interests in.
American Association of Pediatrician also recommends that parents praise and reward their child when he or she does not suckle his or her thumb or use a pacifier. Star charts, daily rewards and gentle reminders, especially during the daytime hours, are also very helpful.
If your child is one who can’t seem to stop, peer pressure will probably do the trick. However, AAP states putting too much pressure on your child to stop this type of behavior may cause more harm than good, and eventually most children will stop the habit on their own.
The photograph on the left shows a child with milk bottle decay. When child’s teeth are submerged in milk or sweet drinks for hours, this encourage decay of upper teeth at a rapid rate. The lower teeth are usually not affected as they are “protected” by the tongue. This condition will likely cost you thousands of dollars of dental treatment for you child and unnecessary suffering for them.
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