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Baby Pacifiers: What You Need to Know

April 10, 2024
Baby Pacifiers What You Need to Know

Does your baby or toddler use a pacifier? Pacifiers are commonly used as a soothing mechanism for infants. But how do they affect dental health? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to pacifier use, such as when to discontinue use and how to make the transition easier. Here’s what you need to know about pacifiers and children’s dental health

Benefits of Pacifiers

Pacifiers have many benefits: 

  • Helps babies sleep for longer stretches at night. 
  • Reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). 
  • May soothe babies during travel, such as in the car or on planes.  
  • Provides breaks for breastfeeding mothers. 

Proper Use of Pacifiers

If you choose to give your baby a pacifier: 

  • Restrict use to bedtime and naps as much as possible. 
  • Only use pacifiers when necessary, such as in situations where your baby is particularly fussy. 
  • Be sure the pacifier is safe and approved for your child’s age. 
  • Choose pacifiers with ventilation holes in the outer portion. 
  • Keep your child’s pacifiers clean and routinely switch them out. 

Potential Problems From Pacifier Use 

When it comes to pacifier use in infancy, the effect on oral health is minimal. However, if pacifier use continues beyond the age of 24 months, some problems may develop, some of which could be long term. 

  • Increased risk of tooth decay. 
  • Negative impact on the growth and development of the mouth and teeth. 
  • Increased risk of middle ear infection. 
  • Greater chance of needing orthodontic treatment later in childhood or during the teenage years. 

The longer your child uses a pacifier into their toddler years and especially by the age of 3 or 4, the more likely the above problems may develop. A pacifier can cause the upper palate (roof of the mouth) to become malformed, which will most likely require orthodontic treatment to correct. Pacifier use in older children can also result in sleep disorders. 

Tips for Helping Your Child Give Up Their Pacifier

Helping your child give up a comfort item can seem daunting, but it is possible with some tips and tricks that many parents have tried. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Cut the tip of the pacifier. By cutting off the tip of the pacifier it will not provide the desired gratification. 
  • Exchange the pacifier for a reward. For older children, offer a reward in exchange for giving up their pacifier, such as a desired toy or activity. 
  • “Lose” all of the pacifiers. Tell your child that the pacifiers are missing and that you can’t find them. 
  • “Forget” pacifiers. Purposely leave pacifiers at home when going on a trip. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Pacifiers

Is it better for my child to use a pacifier than to suck their thumb? 

Pacifier use may be a better habit than thumb sucking, simply because a pacifier can be taken away. It is much more difficult to get a child to stop sucking their thumb than to stop using a pacifier. 

Are dental problems from pacifier use reversible? 

In some cases the alignment of the teeth and the shape of the jaw will correct itself after pacifier use is discontinued, and in other cases it will not. The longer your child uses a pacifier, the lower the chances that the situation will improve on its own. 

Talk To Your Dentist About Pacifier Use 

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s pacifier use, Kids and Teens Dental Place would be happy to help. We can assess the current development of your child’s teeth and mouth to determine if pacifier use is causing any problems. We can also provide assistance to help your child give up their pacifier. 

Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment. 

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