Pacifiers have both advantages and disadvantages. Pacifiers, which exert less abnormal pressure on the teeth than a thumb or other fingers, might prevent thumb sucking and thereby reduce the risk of developing severe malocclusion (overbite) and abnormal growth patterns of the structures that support the teeth (the maxilla and the mandible).
If thumb sucking continues after the permanent teeth have erupted, it has an even higher probability of causing permanent damage. Pacifier use can be controlled in a child in contrast to an appendage such as a thumb. Pacifiers have also been associated with a reduced incidence of SIDS.
It has been shown that long term use of pacifiers can cause dental problems. Misalignment of the teeth or malocclusions have been reported when infants use them beyond the age of 4. There is also a higher risk of ear infections with their continuing use. Limiting the use of pacifiers to the first 6 months or limiting their use to sleep times is recommended. Continuous use of pacifiers may also stunt speech development.
There is little evidence that orthodontic pacifiers are any better than conventional ones.
Choose pacifiers made of a more durable substance like silicon rather than latex, and be sure that the pacifier is made in one piece to avoid smaller parts from being detached and swallowed.
Pacifiers have not been associated with cavities but pacifiers should not be coated with sweets. Contrary to popular belief, pacifiers do not shorten the duration of breast feeding.
This syndrome, resulting from excessive baby bottle use, is characterized by the development of severe tooth decay with pain and infection. It can lead to extractions and extensive dental treatment.
Bacteria in the mouth use milk and other sweetened beverages for metabolism and create an acidic environment in the mouth causing the destruction of tooth enamel and creating cavities. Children suffering from baby bottle syndrome feed poorly and often fail to thrive. The damage initially appears as white lesions on the teeth and then later progresses to brown or black discoloration.
When the damage is severe, the crowns break down and permanent teeth may also be damaged. Malnutrition, with deficiencies in calcium and Vitamin D, may also lead to tooth enamel defects which predisposes the teeth to caries. The overall incidence of baby bottle syndrome varies from 3% to 6% in the general population but can be as high as 72% depending upon the population. The teeth most affected are the maximally and mandibular primary incisors followed by the primary molars.
Breast fed babies, although less likely to develop cavities compared to formula fed babies, can develop baby bottle syndrome when feeding is done on demand. Breast milk does not support the growth of bacteria, doesn't lower the acidity in the mouth and is therefore not as destructive. This is another reason why all mothers should be encouraged to breast feed their infants. Proper use of nipple gels will help heal the chapped, sore breasts that often prevent women from continuing breast feeding.
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