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How a pediatric dentist from the School of Dental Medicine and an engineer with the Tufts Gordon Institute are reinventing the pacifier.

Tufts dentist and engineer play with children

As pacifiers go, Smilo brand binkies have pizzazz. They come in fun patterns such as Fourth of July stars and stripes, psychedelic tie-dye, and geometric glow-in-the-dark (handy for finding in the crib at 2 a.m.). They are made to catch the eye of a parent or parent-to-be.

Beneath the cute decorations of Smilo pacifiers, however, is something far more serious: an orthodontic design grounded in science. Pediatric dentist David Tesini, D75, DG77, AG79, conceived it to prevent the mouth problems babies can develop with heavy pacifier use, problems that happen more often than most parents think. “The most common line I hear? ‘If I had only known,’ ” Tesini said. One study estimated that 30 percent of children who suck a pacifier after the age of two will develop bite misalignments. Structurally, these misalignments can cause chewing and jaw-growth problems. And cosmetically? It could lead to a smile only a mother could love.

When it comes to fixing problems, Tesini has always had an inventor’s spirit. When he learned that dental imprints are as accurate as fingerprints for identifying a person, for example, he set out to develop a way to make dental imprints more readily accessible. He devised a thermoplastic wafer that takes an imprint of a child’s bite, along with a saliva and DNA sample, which can be stored in case the child is lost or abducted. He patented his innovation in 2007 and started a company, Toothprints Inc. Today, impressions have been taken of more than 300,000 children.

Visit Tufts Magazine to read the whole story.