A common concern among parents is whether a dummy is bad for a child’s dental development, and when it’s a good time to call in the ‘dummy fairy’.
Many of the children that come through the Gold Coast Dental & Dental Centre do have issues with their teeth and jaws from sucking a dummy as an infant and toddler. The most common issue associated with dummy sucking is the development of an anterior open bite – where the front top and bottom teeth don’t touch when the back teeth bite together. Similar to thumb sucking, the impact of sucking a dummy depends upon the intensity of sucking, how long the dummy is used for and also how often. An older child who has a dummy in their mouth all day is much more likely to have issues than a four-month-old baby who uses a dummy just to go to sleep. Although there is a huge range of dummies on the market claiming to be ‘orthodontic’, there are few that don’t interfere with growth of the teeth and jaws, and cause issues with speech and feeding.
Here are a few important tips:
- Try to only use a dummy when you’re trying to calm your baby.
- If you are worried that going ‘cold turkey’ will be too distressing, try gradually weaning until the dummy is limited to just sleep time.
- When you feel ready to remove the dummy at sleep time, a soft toy or blankie can be a gentle alternative to help them settle.
- Try to remove the dummy by six months old. That’s when babies start eating solids so they need to develop their chewing muscles.
Remember, sucking is developmentally normal in babies. But as babies grow, they grow out of it and learn the skills to chew, so try to ditch the dummy before they are a toddler. At this stage, children are trying to learn facial expressions and speech so it is up to us to give them a chance to do that.
By Imola Foster – Gold Coast Dental & Denture Centre
Family owned Gold Coast Dental and Denture Centre has the region’s only dedicated area and special program for children with non-nutritive sucking habits (thumb and dummies). gcdenturecentre.com.au