Keep Your Baby's Teeth Healthy By Avoiding Pacifiers And Bedtime Bottles
When infants are born, their sucking reflex is strong. In fact, this important reflex developed while they were still yet in the womb, which is why it's not uncommon to see a fetus sucking his or her thumb on an ultrasound picture. While the sucking reflex is required to nurse or drink from a bottle, an infant can also become "addicted" to sucking. Many parents inadvertently feed this addiction by giving the baby a pacifier or allowing them to go to sleep with a bottle. The baby comes to view sucking as a security blanket and a way to comfort themselves.
Unfortunately, these habits can cause problems. The child doesn't learn how to self-soothe or fall asleep without the pacifier or bottle. This can create a vicious circle in which the baby won't settle down or sleep without their prop. Most concerning is the effect all this sucking, especially when it is a bottle of milk, can have on their teeth. Here is a look at why these bad habits are best avoided to begin with.
What Harm Can A Pacifier Do?
One thing most new parents have in common is they are constantly exhausted. It's hard work taking care of a newborn. Between feedings and diaper changes, it's not uncommon to be tending to their needs every hour or two. Sleep deprivation quickly becomes reality, and unfortunately, just as parents adjust to this new schedule, colic can set in.
Colic is a mysterious condition that occurs around six weeks of age. Colic is essentially a baby who appears to be in distress when they should otherwise be fine. They aren't wet or hungry, yet still they scream and cry. Doctors aren't 100 percent certain why this happens, but many believe it is their digestive or nervous system simply adjusting.
When parents are desperate for quiet and sleep, it can be very tempting to give the baby a pacifier for a little bit of peace. This is not a good long-term solution, however. A child who sucks on a pacifier can develop what is commonly called "pacifier teeth." The palate can change shape from this constant sucking. When the teeth come in, a child who uses a pacifier often ends up with "buck" teeth, where the front teeth protrude outward rather than straight down. This also can cause jaw misalignment. All of these conditions will require early intervention from the dentist to correct. A pacifier can also cause ear infections and delay speech.
What Harm Can Going To Bed With A Bottle Do?
Humans are born with all the teeth they are ever going to have. Even before the first baby teeth erupt, the bacteria in an infant's mouth can do damage. This is one of the reasons why pediatric dentists recommend parents use a soft cloth to wipe their baby's gums after each feeding. Putting a baby to bed with a bottle of milk—or worse, juice—leaves sugar on the gums and their emerging teeth. Bacteria feed on this sugar, and eventually, it will cause decay and cavities. To protect the permanent teeth underneath the baby teeth, a dentist will need to repair these cavities. Ear infections are much more common in babies who go to bed with a bottle, too.
For more information, reach out to local pediatric dental specialists.