The truth about pacifiers

baby's dental healthAccording to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), pacifiers can bring benefits and drawbacks. Among parents, pacifier use can be a high-debated subject, even if your child has already demonstrated their positive feelings about their binky.

On the positive side

  • Pacifiers provide a source of comfort to infants.
  • Pacifiers can assist in reducing the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome because babies with pacifiers sleep less deeply and are more easily roused.

On the negative side

  • Pacifiers can harm growth and development of the mouth and teeth.
  • Prolonged use can cause changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth. Prolonged use can prevent proper growth of the mouth and create problems with tooth alignment.
  • Pacifiers can increase the risk of acute middle ear infections.

For a fussy baby, most parents would agree that a pacifier can be an amazing tool for calming and soothing — and it’s preferable to thumb sucking. However, dental experts warn that once your child is preschool-aged, it can interfere with the development of healthy teeth. More alarming, if your child continues using a pacifier past age three, serious dental malformation can occur. And children who use pacifiers past the toddler years may be more likely to need braces in the future.

If you choose to give your child a pacifier

These tips can help reduce some chances of harm beyond their teeth:

  • Restrict pacifier use to when the infant needs to fall asleep.
  • Choose a pacifier with ventilation holes in the shield, permitting the passage of air
  • Frequently clean and change out the pacifier

When you choose to break the pacifier habit

Do it by age two, as up to that age, teeth alignment or bone development problems usually correct themselves by about six months after pacifier use stops.

Some tips for helping wean your child from the pacifier:

  • Pierce the top or cut it shorter to reduce sucking gratification.
  • “Accidentally” forget to bring it when you leave the house or go on vacation.
  • Talk to your dentist about more ways to break the binky habit (800-717-KIDS).

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