Sucking is a natural reflex for babies. They start to develop and practice it even before they are born. Sucking is a normal part of development that is comforting to children well into their first years of life.
In fact, sucking often brings comfort even after a child no longer needs to get nourishment from a breast or bottle.
Many children find comfort by sucking on hands, fingers or pacifiers. Parents often wonder if these sucking habits can create a problem for a child's teeth or mouth.
Here are a few things to consider if your child uses a pacifier:
When sugars or other carbohydrates enter the mouth, they provide food for cavity-causing bacteria. The more times a child eats, snacks or drinks in a day, the more food the bacteria get. This makes it easier for a child to get cavities at a very early age. This condition is called early childhood caries. Early childhood caries spreads quickly. It often causes pain, can lead to a dental abscess, and puts the child at higher risk of having cavities throughout life.
Tooth decay is a serious problem for young children. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 28% of U.S. children ages 2 to 5 have had some tooth decay. This disease causes pain that interferes with eating, sleeping, learning and playing. Children with extensive early tooth decay may need to have root canal treatment or have teeth removed. This can be done as early as a child's third birthday and often needs to occur in a hospital under general anesthesia.
In the earliest stages of early childhood caries, the teeth may appear to have small white spots or lines on them. These spots or lines often show up along the edges of the gums. As the disease advances, these patches become brown and chipped. This form of tooth decay can get worse very rapidly and cause severe dental problems. Parents should contact a dentist as soon as they notice these problems.
Here are several things you can do to prevent cavities in your children: