The pacifier can be soothing to babies, but if they’re used for too long they could cause dental problems. Long-term use of a pacifier can cause a baby’s developing mouth to grow improperly, causing a greater need for orthodontic care and other treatments as they get older. If your baby currently uses a pacifier, here are some tips on how to wean them off and when they should quit using it altogether.
Effects of Pacifiers
Did you know that a lot of babies suck on their thumbs and fingers before they’re born? Many babies can find sucking to be calming and way for them to self-soothe. While there can be negative effects to prolonged pacifier use, there are some benefits to them too according to Mayo Clinic. Those pros can include:
- It can soothe a fussy baby
- A pacifier offers a temporary distraction during things like routine shots or other procedures
- It can help your baby fall asleep
- Easing discomfort during flights when their ears might need to pop
- Can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Unlike thumb-sucking, the pacifier is disposable and you can throw them away to break the habit
However, if your child uses a pacifier for a long period of time, it could influence the way their mouth develops and their teeth align. This can cause negative effects. The cons of pacifier use include:
- It can interfere with breast-feeding
- Babies can become dependent on the pacifier
- It can increase the risk of ear infections
- Dental problems
Those dental problems include ‘pacifier teeth’ which can cause dental problems well into adulthood. The pacifier can cause the teeth to become crooked and slanted, moving forward. This not only affects how the teeth are aligned, but also can affect the jaw’s alignment too. Not only that, but prolonged pacifier use can cause changes in the roof of the mouth too.
More problems can also occur if you did your child’s pacifier in sweets like honey or sugar. Doing this to a pacifier can cause tooth decay and damage their growing teeth.
When to Stop
Pacifiers affect the teeth after a certain amount of time. However, at that point it’s also become a habit for the child. How do you break the habit and when? Here are our suggestions:
- Ideally, the pacifier use should stop no later than the time the child is 4 years old.
- Choose a time to begin weaning off the pacifier when no big life events are happening. Children cling to their pacifiers because it’s comforting, so if you’re in the middle of a move or the holidays, it might be best to wait to wean.
- Start by slowly limiting the use. Don’t just have them quit cold turkey.
- Try to soothe your child in other ways, like rocking them or putting calming music on while they’re falling asleep.
- Use positive reinforcement. Remember, this is all your child has known. Show excitement and praise them when they opt to not use the pacifier. Don’t punish them for wanting they’re used to.
Colgate explains that pacifiers are beneficial at a young age, but to best avoid the harmful effects of them on the teeth you should take them away at age two, as that is when some dental effects can be seen.
Get Your Child to the Dentist
Your child should visit the dentist by the time they get their first tooth or when they turn one, whichever is sooner. Taking your child to a dentist regularly from an early age is an important part in their long term dental health. They can help give you advice on how to take care of your child’s teeth and how to fully wean your child off the pacifier when it’s time.
Other important tips for your baby’s dental health are to:
- Gently brush their teeth with a small amount of toothpaste
- Limit juices and sugars that can lead to cavities or decay
- Don’t let your baby go to bed with their bottle in hand
All children’s teeth develop at different rates. What’s normal for your first child might not be normal for your second. Seeing a dentist while they’re young not only helps your child, but it helps you feel at peace too.
Make an Appointment with Dr. Niles
Dr. Ashley Niles is your local family dentist who will work with you while your child is young to make sure they have healthy teeth as they grow. If your child needs to come in for an appointment, make one now by calling us at (720)-744-0001.