Should you suck your baby's dummy?

Parents who clean dummies by putting them in their mouths would have less allergic children than others...

I recently read on LeFigaro.fr a very interesting article about baby teats and their impact on the child's exposure to various pathogens. This article is a popularisation of a very serious Swedish study published in the very serious journal Pediatrics.

To summarise the conclusions of this study (and many others that follow the same line), it is clear that exposing infants to different pathogens helps them develop immunity and reduces allergies.

But should you suck your baby's dummy to clean it?

From my point of view, the answer is NO! And twice NO, for two main reasons. These two NOs are closely linked to the two main risks of pathology that we encounter daily in our patients' mouths.

Firstly, the risk of caries: we have known for a long time that dental caries is initiated by two main bacteria (see our sheet on dental caries hereand the interview with Dr LUMBROSO on this subject here) : Streptococcus Mutans, and Lactobacillus Acidophilus. Even if we know the importance of food, acidity, hygiene, etc. in the development of caries, we must understand that without bacteria, there can be no caries!
However, at birth the mouth of the infant is sterile! It is free of all bacteria! The oral bacterial flora is acquired, it is not innate; and this oral flora will evolve throughout life, and in particular during the appearance of the first teeth.
It is also important to know that approximately 80% of the world's population is a carrier of these cariogenic bacteria, and it is precisely by this kind of gesture (or by tasting the child's food with the same spoon...) that we transmit these famous bacteria to the child!

Secondly, the periodontal risk This is the second most common oral disease in France! It consists of gingivitis and periodontitis or more simply of tooth loosening. More than 50% of the French population has a Gingivitis (superficial infection of the gum) and 20% of the adult population in France is affected by Periodontitis (deeper infection leading to bone loss)!
But what is less well known is that the cause of these affections (which can lead to the loss of all the teeth...) is essentially of bacterial origin! Even if poor hygiene and smoking are the main risk factors, the origin of the problem is most of the time a bacterial imbalance, with the appearance of highly pathogenic bacteria. For example,Actinobacillus Actinomycetemcomitans (Aa ); a particularly virulent bacterium, incriminated in certain forms of aggressive periodontitis, notably juvenile periodontitis.

We have known since the 1990s that these bacteria are mainly transmitted by parents! This means that the oral health status of parents is a major element in the prevention of these diseases, and that everything must be done to limit these transmissions. So even if it could reduce allergies, the consequences of these bacterial transmissions are so serious that I think we must do everything we can to avoid these behaviours that lead to the contamination of our children by pathogenic bacteria.

I think that we must teach our children not to drink from the same bottle or glass as another person; that we must not share the same cutlery, etc... and that without going to the extreme of sterilising teats and other bottles, we must refrain from "cleaning" our children's teats by sucking on them! 


Implantologist - Periodontologist
Dental Surgeon in Versailles

Sucking on your baby's dummy reduces the risk of allergy

By Delphine Chayet - le 21/05/2013 LeFigaro.fr

Parents who clean dummies by putting them in their mouths are said to have less allergic children than others.
It is now accepted that exposure to bacteria in early childhood, probably because it stimulates the immune system, reduces the risk of allergy. A Swedish study published in the scientific journal Pediatrics provides a new example in a previously unexplored area. It suggests that children whose parents have developed the habit of sucking on a dummy before putting it back in their toddler's mouth are less likely to develop allergies, asthma and eczema than others.
The researchers recruited 184 children at high risk of allergy and followed them until they were 3 years old. Their parents were asked about breastfeeding and food diversification during an initial interview six months after birth. The use of a dummy was also recorded, as well as the way it was cleaned: dipped in boiling water, rinsed or sucked by the parents. Of the 123 babies who had a dummy, 65 were in the latter situation.
Examination of the children at 18 months revealed that those whose dummies had been "cleaned" in the parents' mouths had a reduced risk of eczema and a significantly reduced risk of asthma and allergies. According to the authors of the study, this phenomenon "is probably due to an early stimulation of the child's immune system by the germs transmitted in the parent's saliva". The authors, who analysed the salivary flora of a group of children aged 4 months, also found significant differences in the variety of bacteria present in the children's saliva, depending on whether or not their parents sucked on their dummy.

Transmission of viruses
"This result is very interesting, but we should not conclude that it is a good habit," notes Dr Bertrand Delaisi, deputy secretary general of the French Paediatric Society. Sucking on your child's dummy exposes them to the risk of transmitting viruses, such as the respiratory syncytial virus (which causes bronchiolitis) or herpes. It also increases the risk of tooth decay, which is linked to the presence of certain bacteria. It is therefore surprising that so many parents have this reflex in a Nordic country that is very respectful of hygiene standards.
The study, although small in number, tends to support the popular theory that adherence to high hygiene standards has the perverse effect of inhibiting the development of a child's immune system. Studies on Bavarian farms have shown that exposure to bacteria reduces the risk of allergy. Conversely, children born by caesarean section have been shown to be more vulnerable than those born by vaginal delivery, with exposure to many germs.


  • Pacifier Cleaning Practices and Risk of Allergy Development Bill Hesselmar, Fei Sjöberg, Robert Saalman, Nils Åberg, Ingegerd Adlerberth and Agnes E. Wold; originally published online May 6, 2013; Pediatrics DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-3345
  • National Survey 2002-2003 (NPASES I) organised by the U.F.S.B.D. in collaboration with CETAF under the scientific direction of Prof. Denis Bourgeois.
  • http://www.ufsbd.fr/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Dossier-de-Presse-PARO-2007.pdf
  • Asikainen S., Chen C., Slots J. Likelihood of transmitting Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans and Porphyromonas gingivalis in families with periodontitis. Oral Microbiol.Immunol. 1996;11(6):387-394.
  • Saarela M., Troil-Linden B., Torkko H., Stucki A.M., Alaluusua S., Jousimies-Somer H., Asikainen S. Transmission of oral bacterial species between spouses. Oral Microbiol.Immunol. 1993;8(6):349-354.
  • Petit M.D., van Steenbergen T.J., Scholte L.M., van der Velden U., de Graaff J. Epidemiology and transmission of Porphyromonas gingivalis and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans among children and their family members. A report of 4 surveys. J.Clin.Periodontol. 1993;20(9):641-650.

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