One natural reflex that your child knows, even before they are born, is sucking. It is crucial to their development process, as it helps provide them comfort during the first couple of years when they need to soothe themselves. It is natural to be worried about how sucking on bottles, pacifiers, and fingers will damage their teeth as an infant. By understanding the truth to childhood sucking habits, it will let you know the dangers of it, and what you can do about it.
When Sucking Should Be A Concern
Permanent teeth will not come in for your child until they reach 4–6 years old. This might lead you to believe that they have plenty of time to kick their self-pacifying habits, but 18% of kids between 2 and 6 years old still suck their thumbs.
This should tell you that having a child that has a sucking habit is normal during their first couple of years, and it won't affect their adult teeth as none of them have come in yet. What you need to be concerned about is when the habit is still there after those teeth have come in.
Sucking on bottles, pacifiers, and fingers later in life can cause damage that includes:
- slanted front teeth
- jaw bones that become misaligned
- tilted bottom teeth
- tooth decay
How Bottles Cause Tooth Decay
Your child may find the need to constantly be sucking on a bottle or sippy cup instead of a pacifier. A mistake parents often make is to give their child juice for their cup since they believe it is good for them. This can significantly increase the risk of having tooth decay at a young age, which is why you should stick to water instead of juice if they insist on sipping all day long.
Early tooth decay will produce white spots or lines on their teeth, and eventually spread down to their gums. The white spots will then turn to brown, and cracks will eventually form.
How To Prevent Child Tooth Decay
Preventing tooth decay can be easy at such an early age, since as a parent, you have complete control over what your child is putting into their mouth. Start by finding ways to break them of their bottle sucking habits, and limit drinking only to meal or snack times. Also, make sure to regularly clean their gums, even if they do not have teeth yet, by using a warm washcloth to rub them down.
If you fear that your child has already caused damage to their teeth or gums, speak with a dentist like Denise McGrade DDS about what can be done to prevent the problem from getting worse.