What Age Should You Stop Dummy Use So Teeth Don’t Go Curved 

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A dummy, dodie, teether, pacifier, or soother is the nipple-shaped device all parents know and use to calm down their babies. However, the dummy is not just a passive thing that a baby sucks on, it has a role in the developing mouth and can tremendously affect how teeth grow.

So if you want to know what age you should stop using the dummy (even if they breastfeed) so your baby’s teeth don’t go curved, keep on reading!

Can Dummies Affect a Child’s Teeth Development?

Continued use of pacifiers past the age of 4 years causes some permanent changes to a child’s facial bones and teeth. These changes include a higher palate, a wider lower jaw, crossbite in the molars, and a vertical gap between the front teeth, also known as an open bite.

The teeth can also curve inwards, as the mouth adapts itself to the constant presence of a foreign object (the dummy). This is because the growing palatal bones are very malleable and can change shape based on what position they’re in.

Some paediatric dentists recommend using orthodontic pacifiers, which have a flattened bulb in place of the circular one. However, there are no clinical studies that confirm an advantage to the regular type, so prolonged use is probably just as harmful.

baby teeth

What Age Should Children Stop Using Dummies?

There are no two children with the exact same needs and developmental requirements. However, there are some guidelines and suggestions that can help you make the best decision for your child.

The general recommendation is to try to stop dummy use between the ages of 24 and 48 months. This age is suggested based on many studies that compare the benefits of dummies to the potential risk they pose to oral health. They should be constantly replaced, though.

Do Children Need Dummies?

Just like with everything, the answer to this is not a simple “yes” or “no.” While studies suggest a dummy is great for preterm infants, and may significantly reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), as babies get older, the benefits shrink compared to the risks.

Between the ages of 6 and 12 months, dummy use has been linked to otitis media or middle ear infections. As a baby grows into a toddler, the risk of developing misaligned teeth, open bite, and crossbite increases.

Once a Dummy Has Changed a Child’s Teeth Development Can It Be Reversed?

Pacifiers can cause oral issues as early as 24 months of age. These problems are often soft-tissue changes, which means that they mainly affect the gums and not the bone structure. Changes of that sort can revert within 6 months of stopping the dummy and won’t require any intervention.

Pacifier use after 48 months has been linked to irreversible bite changes that might require orthodontic care. These interventions can start very early while their baby teeth are still intact, like using removable braces and intra-oral palate shapers. 

The orthodontic devices are used to correct the bite and any possible malocclusion from prolonged dummy use, by widening the palate to match the lower jaw’s width. They can also straighten front teeth and close any gaps that the dummy formed.

How to Gently Stop Children Using Dummies Without Fuss?

Weaning a baby from dummies can be a bit of a process, but experts agree that the earlier you begin, the faster it will be. So, there are several methods you can try based on your child’s age and their attitude towards the pacifier. 

The first one is taking it away once and for all, what is called the “cold turkey” method. This method has its benefits, as the child adapts to their new surroundings without the presence of the dummy.

However, this works best with younger children, as older children will have a harder time accepting it. That’s because children that develop an emotional attachment to their dummies can struggle with giving it up.

Another method is rewarding or praising your child when they remove the dummy. This is called positive reinforcement. It works best for children older than 12 months, as younger ones won’t understand the concept.

You should also have all the child’s caretakers on board when you start the weaning process. A nanny or a grandparent allowing the use of the pacifier can be confusing to the child. And this can cause temper tantrums when you remove it to continue weaning them.

What Alternatives Are There for Dummies?

Trading the dummy for another comforting object, like a soft blanket or stuffed toy, can be beneficial. But beware of caving if your child wants to “trade it back” and won’t stop crying until you do. If you give them the dummy back after crying, they’ll think the reward for crying is getting what they want.

You should never allow the child to suck their thumb as a replacement for the dummy. Thumb-sucking causes the same oral problems as long use of pacifiers, and it’s also a harder habit to kick. While you can get rid of a pacifier, you will have to really convince your child not to put their thumb in their mouth.

Conclusion

Pacifiers have some benefits, like helping a fussy baby self-soothe and improving feeding in preterm infants. However, their prolonged use can cause undesirable side effects when it comes to your child’s oral health. And they should definitely be stopped if your child gets recurrent ear infections or shows signs of malocclusion.

It’s crucial to be aware of your child’s use and emotional dependency on the dummy. This can help you figure out which way to wean them from it without causing yourself unnecessary trouble. Just choose a time when you don’t have much else going on so you can be attentive and provide comfort for your baby when needed.

The most important thing is to be patient and persistent, to never cave in when your child is being unpleasant, and to get all their caretakers on board with the decision. It helps to know that your decision to stop the dummy will benefit your child in the long run.