While using pacifiers or sucking on fingers is normal for babies and young children, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents should wean their children from non-nutritive sucking by age 3. Ending your child’s relationship with their pacifier before they’re 3 years old will significantly decrease your child’s risk of dental malocclusions.
Why Should My Child Stop Using a Pacifier?
As your child’s bite develops and their teeth move into place, if a pacifier is always in their mouth, the teeth and jaw will actually form around the pacifier creating a specific type of malocclusion called an “open bite.”
What is an Open Bite?
“Malocclusion” is the umbrella name for bites where the teeth don’t meet when closed. An open bite malocclusion means the upper and lower teeth do not meet. If you catch an open bite early in its formation, you can correct the bite by weaning the child from using a pacifier or sucking on their fingers. If the open bite has formed and cannot be reversed, it will require either braces in the future, or possibly surgery.
Can an Open Bite Form on its Own?
Yes, pacifiers are not the only thing to blame when a child has an open bite; despite it being the most common reason. Temporomanibular joint disorder (TMD), skeletal disorders, or tongue thrusting can also cause open bites in children.
Why Treat an Open Bite?
You might be saying to yourself, what’s the big deal about an open bite? Well, it’s not just appearance you’ll need to worry about. Open bites can cause issues in speech development as children with open bites struggle with pronunciation. Open bites can also cause problems when eating as the front teeth can’t bite into food as effectively. Open bites can also cause increased wear and tear on the back teeth, including teeth fractures, due to their overuse. Preventing an open bite will prevent costly restoration measures and orthodontic treatment, so start to plan to wean your child from pacifier use before they’re 3 years old.
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