Using a pacifier or a bottle is common to soothe and feed infants. But did you know that the use of a pacifier or bottle can potentially affect how an infant’s teeth erupt?
Prolonged or improper use of pacifiers and bottles can lead to a condition known as “bottle mouth” or baby bottle tooth decay. This condition refers to tooth decay and misalignment caused by frequent and prolonged exposure to bottles and pacifiers along with sugary liquids, such as formula, milk, or juice.
Here’s how pacifiers and bottles can impact tooth eruption.
Prolonged Pacifier Use
Constant and prolonged use of pacifiers, especially beyond the recommended age, may affect the alignment of a child’s teeth and the development of their jaw. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests limiting pacifier use once your baby’s canine teeth emerge—around the age of 18 months .
The sucking motion when using the pacifier, if too strong or continuous, can push on the developing teeth and cause them to come in improperly or result in an open bite, which will require orthodontic treatment to fix.
Constant Bottle Feeding
When infants are routinely put to bed with a bottle or are allowed to sip on bottles throughout the day, their teeth are exposed to sugars from liquids for extended periods, even if you’re just using formula or breastmilk in the bottle.
This prolonged exposure increases the risk of tooth decay, as the sugars provide a food source for oral bacteria that produce acids, leading to cavities.
Additionally, the constant contact of the bottle’s nipple with the teeth can misalign them or cause malocclusion, or an improper bite. These tooth and bite alignment changes are associated more with bottles than breast-feeding .
Researchers suspect that the position of the tongue when using a bottle, as well as the muscles used in bottle-feeding, can cause such issues, but the shape of the bottle’s nipple may have an impact as well.
Protecting Your Baby’s Smile
To mitigate the potential impact of bottle and pacifier use on tooth eruption, here are a few tips:
- Limit pacifier use. Gradually wean your child off pacifiers as they age, starting at about 18 months. Limiting pacifier use to sleep times or gradually reducing frequency can help prevent any negative effects on tooth eruption.
- Properly use bottles. Avoid giving your infant a bottle as a pacifier or allowing them to carry it throughout the day or sleep with it . When bottle-feeding, hold the baby upright to minimize the liquid’s contact with their teeth. It’s also advisable to transition to a cup as soon as they can comfortably use one.
- Keep your child’s teeth clean. As soon as teeth start to emerge, gently clean them with an infant-sized toothbrush and water. Once your child reaches the age of two, use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste. Regular dental check-ups are also crucial for monitoring tooth development and addressing concerns early on.
Don’t Forget Your Baby’s First Dentist Appointment
The best way to ensure your child’s teeth are coming in properly is to keep regular appointments with your child’s dentist. Remember, your child should see the dentist around their first birthday or when their first tooth comes in. Your child’s dentist can help you minimize any negative impacts of bottles and pacifiers so your little one’s teeth will be strong, healthy, and beautiful as they grow up!