Your Child’s Teeth: Bottles, Pacifiers, and Thumb Sucking

One of the most important parts of pediatric dentistry is patient education. The experienced dentists at Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics work closely with both their young patients and their parents. This helps children get an early start on obtaining excellent teeth and overall oral health. Some of the questions parents ask most often involve bottles, pacifiers, and thumb sucking. Today’s blog discusses how each of these habits can impact your child’s teeth and oral health. This information can help you make changes now so your child can enjoy the healthiest future.

Bottles: Harmful or Not?

Many parents ask the Ponte Vedra family dentistry team whether bottles are harmful for children. The answer isn’t black or white, though. When you establish good bottle habits, there’s not a threat to your child’s oral health. Use bottles to eat, take the bottle away immediately afterwards, and only use bottles for as long as your child requires them for nutrition. Your child will then become old enough to drink from a sippy cup and get most nutrition from food. Generally then, they don’t require a bottle any longer.

The very worst mistake many parents make with bottle feeding is leaving a child with a milk or juice bottle in their mouth as they go to sleep. A bottle with milk or juice contains carbohydrates and sugars that can cause tooth decay. This decay can start as soon as your child’s teeth develop. Prolonged use of bottles can also lead to crooked teeth and even jaw misalignment.

Pacifiers: Harmful or Not?

Like bottles, it’s not a firm “yes” or “no.” Pacifiers are generally okay for a limited time. It’s true that pacifiers can potentially cause tooth development issues and jaw problems if used for too long. Pacifiers can be very convenient for soothing a fussy infant, but they’re unfortunately a very tough habit to break as your child gets older. If you do give your baby a pacifier, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you wean them at 6-12 months old.

If pacifier use continues long-term, your child’s teeth could grow in tilted or slanted, which is sometimes called “pacifier teeth”. Misalignment in your child’s developing jaw is another potential issue associated with long-term pacifier use. If your child uses a pacifier almost continually for an extended period, they could develop a narrowed palate (the roof of their mouth), teeth crowding, and misalignment.

Thumb Sucking: Harmful or Not?

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for babies and even young toddlers. It’s a self-soothing action that can give both of you a sense of relief when your child’s feeling anxious or stressed. But, just as with pacifiers and bottles, extended thumb sucking can cause some major dental damage. Most kids gradually outgrow thumb sucking between 2 and 4 years old. As a parent, the best thing you can do to encourage this is positive reinforcement — namely, praise for not thumb sucking rather than punishment for doing so.

If your child continues to suck their thumb, especially if they do so vigorously for long stretches of time, they can develop problems like narrowed palate, crowded teeth, and teeth misalignment. Jaw development issues are also possible if thumb sucking continues beyond the toddler years.

When it comes to bottles, pacifiers, and thumb sucking, every child is unique. That means you need to take a customized approach to limiting their use with help from your Ponte Vedra dentist. If you’re worried about how your child’s bottle, pacifier, or thumb sucking affects their oral health, just reach out to a member of the pediatric dentistry team. We will give you personalized guidance and support. The team is ready to help both you and your child enjoy the very best oral health now and in the future.

At Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics in Ponte Vedra, Florida, the experienced dental care team is proud to be your family’s source for Ponte Vedra complete dentistry. For everything from your child’s first dentist visit to childhood tooth extraction and dental care into adulthood, the team is dedicated to delivering comprehensive care for your whole family. Contact our office to schedule your child’s appointment up now.