Expert / 20 September, 2022 / Ellie Thompson
The sucking reflex is part of babies normal, healthy development whether it be thumb, finger, or dummy. Dummies are brilliant soothers, they’re brilliant at comforting little ones to help them fall asleep in no time at all. But when you’re choosing your dummy for your newborn, you’re probably not thinking about the impact on baby teeth, and when to take it away…
We’ve teamed up with premium Danish brand BIBS to share some important information on dummies and baby teeth as well as some handy tips to help you choose the right dummy shape for your baby.
There are a number of advantages of giving your new baby a dummy, but it’s generally recommended to ensure breastfeeding has been established, once your baby is about one month old.
To begin with, a baby will suck really hard on a dummy when settling down to sleep. Gradually, the speed and strength of the suck will diminish. This reflects other things which are happening in his body – his breathing and heart rate will be slowing down, easing him into sleep. It is thought that this gentle, controlled transition is good for avoiding cot death.
According to The Lullaby Trust, “Some research suggests that it is possible that using a dummy when putting a baby down to sleep could reduce the risk of sudden infant death.” The crucial phrase in the SIDS literature is that you only use the dummy to settle a baby when he goes to sleep and when it falls out you don’t reinsert it, thus avoiding dummy dependency.
Another benefit of using a dummy is that it removes the temptation to thumb suck. “One of the advantages of dummies is that they prevent the baby from sucking his thumb. In terms of teeth and jaws, the dummy is preferable. It is very difficult for the baby to stop sucking his thumb, whereas a dummy is much easier to take away from the baby,” Nina Nissen Falbert, dentist.
Using a dummy counteracts mouth breathing. “Mouth breathing means that often – both during the day and at night – your baby will use their mouth to breathe instead of their nose. It is better to breathe through the nose as this protects the mucous membranes, increases oxygen uptake, counteracts tooth decay and counteracts an altered jaw position due to the resting position of the tongue.” Carina Løvstad, dental hygienist. If a baby is sucking on a dummy, air brought into a baby’s body via the nasal tubes is warmed and filtered before it reaches the lungs and this, too, may have a beneficial effect.
According to Colic SOS, “Babies who suffer with acid reflux, also known as gastro-oesophageal disease (GORD) can benefit from using a dummy. The sucking triggers the relaxation of the lower oesophageal sphincter (the valve that opens for contents to pass through to the stomach). The relaxation of the sphincters is crucial but for babies with reflux the relaxation of the sphincter in the absence of swallowing… allows gastric contents to flow back up into the oesophagus, which causes the pain and the irritation. The sucking on the dummy ensures that babies keep swallowing to prevent this backflow of the acid and food.”
When we give our newborn a dummy, we don’t usually stop to think about their teeth. We’re more concerned about taking care of our baby, soothing them so they’re comfortable. And yet the question will eventually come up:
As your baby grows and develops, it’s important to consider the impact of dummy use on teeth and gums.
According to the NHS, using dummies after the age of 12 months can encourage an open bite, which is when teeth move to make space for the dummy. They may also affect your child’s speech development. But the good news is that if you remove the dummy before the age of three, any damage to their teeth is reversible.
“Many studies have shown that if your child stops using a dummy before the age of three, teeth alignment generally normalises without treatment later in life,” says Nina.
Finding the right dummy for your baby is an important decision. But this journey can also be a bit stressful for new parents who don’t really know which products are right for their baby. When it comes to the right dummy, there is no general answer, and that’s because all babies are different. You will probably have to test different sizes and shapes to find the perfect one. Some babies prefer a particular nipple shape, size or material, while others have no preference and simply accept any variation they are given. Babies have different sucking techniques and different mouths.
All BIBS dummies are made from the highest quality materials using natural rubber latex or silicone, both free from BPA, PVC, and phthalates. We explain the differences between the two materials, so you can choose the right dummy for your child.
Natural rubber latex is derived from a sticky milky fluid tapped from the Hevea tree. The fluid is refined to the brown/yellow rubber you’ll recognise from your dummies, offering a super soft, elastic, and resilient material that mimics the mother’s soft nipple. Due to the elasticity of the material, the nipple can change shape and size because of the strong vacuum of the baby, which can sometimes result in the nipple expanding, if it’s not replaced in time.
Silicone is an industrially manufactured hypoallergenic, odorless, and taste-neutral material that is known for its purity. Silicone is 100% free of harmful and endocrine-disrupting ingredients such as BPA, PVC, and phthalates. The smooth transparent nipple is not as soft as natural rubber latex, but it retains its shape, does not age, and can withstand high temperatures.
BIBS’ collection of dummies are available in three nipple shapes: anatomical, symmetrical and round, and in the most beautiful colours.
As with everything else, it is important to wean your baby off their dummy in small, gradual steps. Try to stop using a dummy by the time your baby is 10-12 months to help prevent problems later. If it is not possible to wean the child from the dummy before the age of three, try to get the child to use the dummy as little as possible and with as little intensity as possible.
It’s important to remember that all children are different and that long-term dummy use can affect tooth alignment. It clearly depends on how often, how long and with what intensity the dummy is used. You know your child best and if there is any doubt, the advice of a dentist should be sought.
For more information about premium Danish baby and toddler brand BIBS and their wonderful range products, click here.