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Dummies or pacifiers: Are they good for your baby?

As a parent, one of the concerns that may cross your mind - are dummies or pacifiers good for your baby.

Strong sucking reflexes are very natural for most babies. Some babies tend to be quite content and happy when they are sucking something as it often has a soothing and calming effect. A perfect must-have for most parents.

It is however a good idea to discourage the use of dummies and thumb sucking before your child reaches 3 years of age and definitely before they get their permanent teeth. A child's teeth and shape of their mouth may be affected if the use of dummies continues into the school age years, once permanent teeth begin to erupt.

However, it is one of the hardest habits to break and can require a great deal of persuasion.

Dummy overuse effects

Prolonged, overuse or incorrect use of a dummy may lead to some oral health issues.

These may consist of:

  • Incorrect teeth positioning - the upper teeth may be pushed forward

  • Tooth decay (especially the front teeth) – when a dummy has been dipped into a sugary substance, for example glycerine, jams or honey for sucking

  • Speech problems – a child may experience limited range of tongue movements. This may impact on speech sounds and communications

Dummies and Tooth decay

Sugary substances are the main causes of rapid tooth decay and especially when the dummy is dipped in jams, condensed milk, honey and syrups. Another factor is the transfer of bacteria from your mouth to your child’s mouth (sucking your child’s dummy) can also increase the risk of tooth decay.

The front teeth generally tend to be more affected by decay but all the teeth can also be affected.

Weaning off Dummies and Finger/Thumb sucking

Studies of finger/thumb sucking show that this habit is much harder to break than the dummy sucking. The one advantage of a dummy, is that it can be removed gently from the mouth when a child is sleeping. This will help a child establish a sleeping habit without a dummy or finger/thumb to suck on.

In most cases, a child may stop sucking on a dummy, finger or thumb between the ages of 2 and 4 years.

To wean a child off the dummy, it should be done gradually. Abrupt weaning may then lead to finger/thumb sucking.

To break this habit will be hard at first and may take several attempts before the dummy sucking has stopped. Persistence, positiveness and patience is the key to help break this habit.

Where to get help and advice

  • Contact us - Balgownie Dental (02) 4585 3855

  • Early Childhood Centre

  • GP - medical doctor

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