Breaking up With Binky: Childhood Habits and When to End Them

Asian toddler with pacifier in mouth

Anyone who has experienced parenthood knows how a well-timed sippy cup of juice or pacifier can save the day – or the night. But the same things that soothe and comfort might also bring about oral health problems later in life.

Of most concern to dentists is the practice of giving children juice or milk in a bottle or sippy cup to drink throughout the day or at bedtime. When children continually sip on milk and juice, the sugars in these drinks contribute to tooth decay. In fact, prolonged exposure to sugary liquids cause a condition known as baby bottle tooth decay – a painful and damaging problem characterized by cavities in the front teeth. Skip the bottle or sippy cup between meals and at bedtime, or swap for water, which won’t hurt teeth.

Some people think it’s not a big deal for a young child to get a cavity or lose a baby tooth since these primary teeth eventually fall out anyway. However, maintaining healthy baby teeth is extremely important for the long-term health of permanent teeth. When baby teeth are damaged by decay, it can affect nutrition, speech development and self-esteem, and can cause problems with spacing as permanent teeth grow in.

Pacifiers and thumb sucking are two more common childhood habits that are best in moderation because they can impact tooth alignment. In most cases, an infant obsessed with thumb sucking or a young toddler who needs a pacifier to nap are just fine, provided that these habits aren’t carried on for too long. Children typically grow out of these habits on their own, but some may need some extra encouragement.

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