Babies love having pacifiers, but unfortunately, it doesn’t mean pacifiers are always good, especially for their teeth. Excessive use of a pacifier can cause abnormal tooth development as well as other health problems. But the good news is this is avoidable! Find out from a pediatric dentist in Scottsdale how to ensure pacifiers are a comfort and not a problem for you and your little one.
What Do Pacifiers Do?
Pacifiers can be very beneficial for parents and kids, especially in the early months. The benefits of a pacifier are:
- They soothe a crying infant, which also helps calm a parent’s nerves
- They can help reduce pain for a nursing infant
- They reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Pacifiers are especially helpful for premature infants in the intensive care unit since they can shorten hospital stays and aid tube-fed babies in learning how to use a bottle.
Are Pacifiers Bad for Teeth?
Unfortunately, pacifiers can cause problems for your child, especially with their oral health. The American Dental Association notes that both pacifiers and thumb-sucking can affect the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of teeth. They can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth. The use of pacifiers especially causes issues for kids older than age two.
Pacifiers can also increase the possibility of ear infections and cause breastfeeding difficulties. That’s why it’s advisable to introduce a pacifier only after you’re comfortable getting your baby latched onto your breast.
How to Use Pacifiers Responsibly & Avoid Damage to Teeth
It’s important to note the intensity of sucking can heavily influence whether dental problems may occur. If babies passively place the pacifier or thumb in their mouth, they are less likely to develop problems with their baby teeth than infants who vigorously suck their thumbs or pacifiers. As a parent, it’s crucial to take note of how your child is using the pacifier.
It’s also essential to avoid pacifiers that aren’t one-piece or have removable parts or liquid interiors. Clean your baby’s pacifier regularly, and never dip it in sweet liquids.
Breaking the Pacifier Habit
Most kids stop sucking between ages 2-4 or by the time their permanent teeth are ready to erupt. That said, if you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth or are just concerned about their pacifier or thumb-sucking habit, it’s time to check with a pediatric dentist. They might recommend a mouth appliance to help break the habit.
Encouragement and praise are tools you can and should use at home to help your little one break the habit. Kids often suck their thumbs if they’re seeking comfort or feeling insecure. That’s why, instead of scolding your child, focusing on addressing the cause of the anxiety can help.
For babies who need a little extra comfort and soothing, pacifiers can be an invaluable tool. But, like all good things, they’re best used in moderation. With a bit of care and oversight, you can ensure that your baby enjoys the pacifier without experiencing any downside!
About the Author
Dr. Veronica Martinez earned her dental doctorate from Marquette University. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and maintains an Arizona state sedation license. A board-certified pediatric dentist, Dr. Martinez can further discuss pacifier use during your child’s next visit – she offers a free first dental exam from birth through 18 months! You can schedule one on her website or call (480) 282-6746.