Can Pacifiers Really Harm Your Child’s Teeth?

Oak Park, IL – Pacifiers can be a lifesaver for parents, by providing comfort to their infants by relieving the child’s sucking reflex. In some cases, they can even be lifesaving. But how long is too long to allow your child to use his pacifier?

“The Academy of General Dentistry acknowledges that there are benefits to pacifier use for infants,” says Dr. William Beam, an Oak Park orthodontist. “Infants have a natural sucking reflex that pacifiers can satisfy. Studies have also shown that pacifiers may be able to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.”

Pacifiers can provide a source of comfort to infants, but it’s up to parents to be aware of the risks associated with extended pacifier use.

“We recommend that children stop using a pacifier by the age of two,” says Dr. Richard Battistoni. “Up until this time, if there is an alignment problem caused by pacifier use, it is in the developing bone and we typically see it corrected by about six months after the pacifier habit has stopped. But if pacifier use continues into early childhood, we can begin to see real problems with the shape of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth. It can even change the shape of the roof of your child’s mouth. And these issues can lead to the need for orthodontic treatment, such as expander.”

But any parent who has ever tried to curb a pacifier habit can tell you the process isn’t easy.

“Knowing that allowing your older toddler/young child to continue to use a pacifier can be bad for their developing mouth is only the start, then you have to make a plan to take it away,” says Dr. Beam.

The team at Battistoni and Beam Orthodontics offers these tips:

  • As the infant grows, restrict pacifier use to only when falling asleep.
  • Pierce the top of the pacifier or cut it to reduce the satisfaction your child will get from sucking.
  • Dip the pacifier in something that tastes bad, such as white vinegar.
  • Offer a reward for giving up the pacifier
  • Leave the pacifier after a trip, or leave it for the tooth fairy to take.

“The earlier you can break pacifier use, the better,” says Dr. Battistoni. “An older child will come to associate it with comfort when tired, scared or sick, and it can be much harder to convince them to leave it behind.”

Consider praising your child for each time he or she goes through the day, or a naptime or bedtime, without using the pacifier. If your child likes to use a pacifier when scared or anxious, work on other ways to relieve those emotions. Offer rewards for instances where the pacifier isn’t used. For older children, it can also be helpful to create a countdown for when the pacifier will be taken away.

The team at Battistoni and Beam Orthodontics are always available to help you encourage your child to stop a pacifier habit. We can explain what happens to the teeth, and offer rewards and words of praise along the way.

If you are concerned about how extended pacifier use may have affected your child’s mouth, schedule a consultation with Battistoni and Beam Orthodontics today. Children should have their first orthodontic appointment by the age of seven.

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