The other day I was sitting in church sharing a pew with a young family. The mom was busy trying to keep two small children quiet while dad was wrestling with a third. It brought back a flood of wonderful (that’s easy for me to say now) memories of my wife and seven children and our three-ring Sunday circus. I noticed that the mother was having a particularly difficult time with one young son who appeared to be between two and three years old. He was extremely active and curious and occasionally made noises that were interpreted by mom as being disturbing to those sitting nearby because every time the child made any noise mom would take the pacifier that was strategically attached to his shirt and shove it into his mouth. The small child would immediately clamp onto the pacifier and begin to suck with exuberance.
What mom did not realize, I’m sure, is that she was altering the young boy’s genetic potential. Every person born is given a certain genome that dictates how that individual will grow and develop over time. That genome or genetic potential will occur as God intended unless environmental factors interrupt or altar that genetic potential. What types of environmental factors can altar genetic potential? Well, excessive use of a pacifier for one. It was obvious by the position of this little boy’s lower jaw and upper front teeth that his genetic potential had already been altered.
Pacifiers are made of hard plastic that causes a baby’s mouth to conform to the shape of the pacifier and hold the lower jaw in a retruded position. Excessive pacifier use will also cause the upper jaw to be narrow and vaulted. Narrow and vaulted upper jaws will decrease the volume of air capacity within the nose which makes it more difficult for a child to breathe through their nose, especially when they have any excess nasal mucous. If a child can not breathe through their nose they will resort to breathing through their mouth causing their air intake to be unfiltered and non-humidified which leads to an increase in upper respiratory infections and even more difficulty breathing. If the child is stuck in this cycle of compromised breathing for extended periods of time then they learn to breathe primarily through their mouth which completely alters the way their face grows.
The most difficult thing for me in knowing what I know is when I am confronted with a situation like the mother and her son in church. I absolutely know that the mother is causing severe damage to her son’s jaw bones, teeth and facial growth and development as well as potentially major problems with his TMJ and airway but there is really nothing I can do about it. I will certainly always give advise when asked and I will bend over backwards to educate my own family and any friends who care to listen. One of the greatest joys I get from practicing dentistry is the opportunities I have every single day to educate my patients. I derive great satisfaction imparting my knowledge with my patients and helping them make certain that theirs and their families’ genetic potential regarding the development of their jaws and faces reaches their maximum potential.
Pacifiers were invented to pacify mom and dad, not the child. Pacifier use is a learned behavior, if an infant is not taught to be comforted by a pacifier then they will not need one as they grow older.
I just spent one of the greatest weekends of my life a few weeks ago when I held my oldest daughter’s first child in my arms (my first grandson). In my opinion, there is nothing more spiritual than holding a newborn infant in your arms. When it was time to bathe my little grandson my daughter asked me for my help…what a privilege! As we were kneeling together over the tub and splashing water all over this little miracle he began to fuss. One little trick that I use instead of a pacifier is to massage their upper jaw. Make sure your finger is clean and just rub it in the palate and upper arch. Don’t be afraid to press rather firmly, almost like giving a back massage. My tiny grandson went almost limp and never made a single sound while his mom finished bathing and dressing him.
I mentioned above that “environmental factors” can interrupt God’s genetic potential; using a pacifier is only one factor. Stay tuned for additional factors that can change the way a person’s face, jaws and teeth grow and develop.