Most babies and young children soothe themselves by sucking on a pacifier. This is a common habit, which can be relaxing for the child, but prolonged use can wreak havoc on your child's smile and underlying dental health. While shocking for many parents to learn, children should stop using a pacifier before they turn two years old. If the habit continues, your child will need pediatric dentistry treatment to correct their dental issues.

How Prolonged Use of a Pacifier Affects your Child's Smile

Your child begins developing their jaw and undering bite early on in life. If they use their pacifier for a longer period of time, it can cause severe damage to their development.

Your child's front teeth may protrude out, resulting in “buck teeth.” Or, sucking on the pacifier may cause the bottom teeth to tilt in inward. These misaligned bites are not only unappealing, but they may also affect your child's ability to speak properly. Lastly, misaligned bites that go uncorrected can lead to pain and discomfort as your child ages.

While shocking for many parents to learn, prolonged use of the pacifier may also increase your child's risk of cavities, tooth decay, and tooth loss. Food and bacteria can quickly build up on the pacifier, increasing contact with your child's teeth and mouth. Over time the food and bacteria will spread across the teeth and gums, which will result in serious dental issues.

Treatment Options

If your child's bite is misaligned, visit your pediatric dentistry specialist immediately. In most cases, you will need to halt the use of the pacifier. This can be difficult since many children require it to fall sleep and as a calming aid. Fortunately, they can relax their body and mind using other techniques.

Consider implementing a structured bedtime routine that consist of a bath or shower, clean and warm pajamas, and a story each night. Playing soothing music before bed is also helpful for calming your child without the use of a pacifier. Avoid giving your child any toys or stuffed animals, since they may begin sucking or chewing on them at night as a replacement to their pacifier.

You can also ask your child to donate their pacifier to a younger child who is in need. Work together with your child to clean and package the pacifier for shipping. Then, ship the pacifier off to the younger child. This will not only give your child a sense of pride for helping others, but it will also help prevent further damage to your child's smile.

Once your child is able to relax without the pacifier, you can begin treatment for their misaligned bite. Although you may believe your child is too young, orthodontic care may be necessary to correct your child's dental development. A palatal expander is an excellent pediatric dentistry option recommended for children in combination with brackets to correct gaps, bucked teeth, crossbites, overbites, and underbites that may stem from prolonged pacifier use.

Prolonged use of a pacifier can cause severe damage to your child's smile and dental development. With the help of your pediatric dentistry professional and this guide, you can prevent and correct issues with your child's smile.