Is there reason to be concerned about pacifiers? It’s true that they can impact the oral health of your child—both negatively and positively. It all depends on how and when your baby is using their pacifier. In some situations, pacifiers can impact the dental development of your baby—this is commonly referred to as pacifier teeth.
Are pacifiers bad for your baby?
Pacifiers are not necessarily bad for your baby if they are weaned off of them before the age of two. After that, teeth start to develop, and oral health can be impacted. As the jaw develops, if there is consistently a pacifier, a thumb, or other obstruct in it, the jaw will develop around it. This can lead to an overbite, underbite, misaligned teeth, changes in the roof of the mouth, or other issues. In short, if a baby used a pacifier long term, it can impact the shape of their mouth and the alignment of their teeth. Sucking a thumb can have a similar effect.
Pacifiers can also lead to other issues. Babies who are six months or older and still using a pacifier are at higher risk for ear infections—introducing a baby to a pacifier before one month can create problems with breastfeeding.
Benefits of a Pacifier
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, there can be many benefits to a baby using a pacifier between the ages of one month and six months. It’s natural for a baby to enjoy sucking—it can be very soothing for them. Giving them a pacifier can prevent them from using their thumb. Though there is no real harm in thumb sucking, it is much more difficult to wean off of. You can take away a pacifier, but you can’t take away a thumb. It’s also easier to keep a pacifier clean and germ-free.
According to a study done by the American Academy of Family Physicians, pacifiers can reduce a baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS.)
Weaning the Pacifier
It seems that the key to using a pacifier is to wean off of it before it can cause damage. There are many methods for helping your baby break the pacifier habit. Praises and rewards when they don’t use the pacifier can be helpful. Giving them a little extra help or comfort when they usually use their pacifier is also a good idea. It’s crucial to avoid punishments or scolding regarding the pacifier; this can lead to other issues and has proven to be ineffective.
No matter your baby’s pacifier habits, be sure that you are caring for your little one’s teeth. Keep them clean by brushing them twice daily with toothpaste formulated for infants or babies. Reduce their risk of pacifier teeth and other oral issues and start good oral hygiene early on.