When raising very young children, giving them a dummy (or pacifier) seems like a smart choice. After all, without the communication skills available, young children are often prone to periods of distress that are difficult to understand – here a dummy can be the ultimate solution.
However, as much as these items are useful for comfort, they can also cause a number of problems if they are used for too long, some of which could have a major impact on the development of children’s teeth.
It’s worth remembering that teeth don’t erupt into their final position straight away – the lips, tongue and cheeks are all partially responsible for where teeth end up as well. Certain behaviours, such as sucking on a dummy can affect this – especially as it can teach habits that people hold onto for life. For example, many infants who have a dummy growing up learn to swallow differently than those who never had one. These individuals push forward their tongue when swallowing, and this can cause the front teeth to emerge or move out of place over time.
Worryingly, when teeth are shifted out of place during development, it can lead to a number of issues that may require extensive orthodontic correction in the future. Children with affected tooth positioning may be unable to chew or speak properly as a result. In fact, speech impediments caused by incorrectly positioned teeth can take years to correct and have far-reaching consequences on children’s confidence if allowed to persist.
Of course, as these problems are not instantaneous, it’s hard to keep track of their development and effectively know when to wean children off devices such as dummies for the good of their health. From a professional point of view, it’s generally considered that once a child reaches three years old they should no longer be using a dummy, but you may want to wean them earlier if you want to be absolutely sure to minimise the risks of them learning different swallowing behaviours that could impact their tooth positioning.
If you’re ever unsure about the use of dummies and what this could mean for your child, it’s a good idea to talk about the subject with your dentist. Dummies aren’t necessarily all bad, and there are certain orthodontic dummies on the market that have been designed to encourage the formation of proper swallowing techniques that should help prevent any tooth positioning problems. In the majority of cases, the best, least risky way to avoid any problems is to never use a dummy at all, or ensure that your child is weaned off it very early. Evaluate the options, be aware of the consequences and speak to a professional – this way you can hopefully find a happy balance!
For further information please call EndoCare on 020 7224 0999