Can Pacifiers and Baby Bottles Ruin My Baby's Teeth?
Sucking is a natural reflex for babies. They start to develop and practice it even before they are born. Sucking is a normal part of development that is comforting to children well into their first years of life.
In fact, sucking often brings comfort even after a child no longer needs to get nourishment from a breast or bottle. Many children find comfort by sucking on hands, fingers or pacifiers. Parents often wonder if these sucking habits can create a problem for a child's teeth or mouth.
Are Pacifiers a Problem?
During a child's first few years, sucking habits probably won't damage his or her mouth. But frequent and long-term sucking can cause problems. This is especially true if the habit continues after baby teeth start to fall out. Long-term sucking can cause:
Here are a few things to consider if your child uses a pacifier:
Early Childhood Tooth Decay: The Roles of the Bottle and Breastfeeding
Many children satisfy their desire to suck by using a bottle or sippy cup as a pacifier. Others continue breastfeeding long after it is crucial for nutrition. Frequent sucking or sipping anything other than plain water from a bottle or cup may increase a child's risk of developing early and extensive tooth decay. While breastfeeding is a good and healthy practice, continuous breastfeeding can still increase the risk of decay.
When sugars or other carbohydrates enter the mouth, they provide food for cavity-causing bacteria. The more times a child eats, snacks or drinks in a day, the more food the bacteria get. This makes it easier for a child to get cavities at a very early age. This condition is called early childhood caries. Early childhood caries spreads quickly. It often causes pain, can lead to a dental abscess, and puts the child at higher risk of having cavities throughout life.
Tooth decay is a serious problem for young children. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 28% of U.S. children ages 2 to 5 have had some tooth decay. This disease causes pain that interferes with eating, sleeping, learning and playing. Children with extensive early tooth decay may need to have root canal treatment or have teeth removed. This can be done as early as a child's third birthday and often needs to occur in a hospital under general anesthesia.
In the earliest stages of early childhood caries, the teeth may appear to have small white spots or lines on them. These spots or lines often show up along the edges of the gums. As the disease advances, these patches become brown and chipped. This form of tooth decay can get worse very rapidly and cause severe dental problems. Parents should contact a dentist as soon as they notice these problems.
Baby teeth stay in children's mouths long after babyhood. In fact, some of these teeth remain until children become teenagers. For this reason, it is important to keep baby teeth healthy and to stop tooth decay as soon as it is discovered. As with adult teeth, tooth decay in baby teeth can lead to pain and trouble with eating and speaking. If baby teeth are removed or lost early, other teeth can move into the space that's left. This can cause the adult teeth to come in crowded or crooked.
Here are several things you can do to prevent cavities in your children:
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