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Bottle, Pacifier and Thumb

When to Stop the Bottle, Pacifier and Thumb

A baby’s jaw bones are soft and moldable. The jaw bones and the position of the baby teeth within the bones can be altered by bad habits. When a baby uses a bottle, pacifier or finger for too long, the jaws and the position of teeth may be molded into a shape that is undesirable. For example, a sucking habit can mold the upper jaw into a protrusive position. The upper jaw can become too narrow and the front teeth can stick out. At the same time, a sucking habit can mold the lower jaw so that it becomes retrusive. The lower teeth lean backwards and the tongue can spread out the lower back teeth, making that lower arch too wide. Such changes can make the front teeth end up far ahead of the lower teeth and the baby or toddler can develop a bad bite.

The best way to prevent the above problems is to eliminate bad habits early in life. The ideal age to stop using a milk bottle and to transition to a sippie cup is around 1 year old. This will help prevent problems caused by using a bottle for too long. Once a toddler has transitioned to a sippie cup, it is important to use that the shortest time possible because even a sippie cup can mold the jaws and teeth into an undersirable position as well. We recommend a toddler learn to use a regular cup as soon as possible. For example, sippie cups can be used for traveling but when at home, the toddler can be encouraged to drink from a regular cup.

While a pacifier is wonderful for soothing a baby, prolonged use can deform the jaws and position of teeth. Therefore it is ideal to begin reducing its use around age 2 and to completely eliminate its use by age 4. This is also true for thumb sucking and finger sucking habits. If a habit is completely eliminated by age 4, even if the jaws and teeth have been molded into an undesirable position, most of this will naturally improve. The dentists at TLC for Smiles can help you identify what is happening with your child’s teeth and gums.