Can a Pacifier Ruin My Baby’s Teeth?
Can using a pacifier ruin your baby’s teeth? Find out the answer and more information about pacifiers by reading our dentist‘s article below.
The short answer is yes. Prolonged sucking on a pacifier can cause crooked teeth or bite problems. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends discouraging the use of a pacifier after your child turns three.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians suggest weaning a child from their pacifier even earlier—around six months to one year—if possible due to the potential dental problems and the increased risk for ear infections* with long-term pacifier use.
*-Continuous sucking causes the auditory tubes to become open, which allows secretions from the throat to seep into the ear—this transmission of bacteria can lead to ear infections.
Why Use a Pacifier in the First Place?
It’s a natural instinct for infants to suck. It is how they eat whether directly from the breast or through the use of a bottle, and this reflex helps them feel calm and relaxed. Therefore, pacifiers can be used to sooth an agitated baby and help them go to sleep. It is even said that pacifiers can also lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Orthodontic Pacifier vs. Traditional Pacifier
Traditional pacifiers have a round or slightly elongated nipple, whereas orthodontic ones are intended to reduce the harmful dental problems caused by the more traditionally designed products. The orthodontic pacifiers are meant to encourage muscle movement that is similar to breastfeeding, and they are thought to help the infant’s dental arch develop normally. However, prolonged use of either type can lead to dental problems, especially in children over three years old.
How to Wean from the Pacifier
Just like anything, the best strategy for stopping your child’s pacifier habit will depend on their age and temperament.
Under Age 1
For parents under one, many have found success by limiting the use of pacifiers to during sleep only and then gradually phasing them out altogether. Moreover, if the pacifier has been a large staple in your baby’s sleep schedule, try supplementing it with reading a book or singing a song as you rock them to sleep. And make sure that you offer lots of hugs, kisses, and attention during this transition.
Toddlers may be a little harder to get over their habits. If your child is particularly mature, you can try just sitting him or her down and explaining how bad the pacifier is for their teeth. But if you don’t think that will work, you can gather up all of the pacifiers and explain that they are going away. This may be most effective if you offer something new (like a special blanket or new toy) to use as their comfort item. Additionally, some people have seen success in throwing “goodbye” parties for their child and their pacifiers.
However, you should never force or punish a child to stop using a pacifier. Parental pressure can only encourage the stress that causes the need for sucking on the pacifier in the first place. Also, it is discouraged for you to start the weaning process during a particularly stressful time in your child’s life—like moving or starting school.
If you are having problems stopping your child’s pacifier-sucking habit, you can always reach out to your pediatrician for more advice.
Ask Our Dentist If You Have More Questions About Pacifiers During Your Child’s Next Pediatric Exam
Sucking on a pacifier is a natural way to calm and sooth a baby. However, if this behavior persists for years, it can be problematic to your child’s dental health. Slowly weaning a kid over one year old may be the best way to get them to break the habit and salvage their teeth. However, you should never force a child to quit using a pacifier. Confidence, patience, and positivity will go a long way.
If you have more questions about pacifiers and your child’s baby teeth, let our dentist know during their next pediatric exam. To schedule your child’s appointment, reach out to our dental office.
Creating Smiles, PC, located in St. John and Valparaiso, Indiana, offers everything you need for a healthy smile and a healthier life. Dr. Kapers and his team can take the anxiety and uncertainty out of dental visits with sedation dentistry, and we're the premier provider of dental implants in the region.