Pacifiers – it’s a hot topic among new parents. What kind should I get? When do I give it to my child? When do we give it up? These are all common questions that come up. But have you ever wondered about the ways that using a pacifier might impact your child’s teeth?
What Dentists and Orthodontists Say
Using a pacifier (or thumb/finger sucking) will usually only become a problem if it goes on for a very long period of time. In general, it’s best to limit pacifier time to when a baby needs it to be soothed. Mindless pacifier use when a baby is already happy, is rarely necessary.
Pediatricians, dentists and orthodontists agree that by the time a child reaches his or her 3rd birthday, they should be weaned completely from using a pacifier. Although, many parents will choose to say, “bye-bye, paci” much earlier. Some children will be able to drop the habit on their own, and others may need a gradual approach. Cutting down to only nap or bedtime is a great way to start the weaning process. If a child hasn’t stopped using a pacifier by their 3rd birthday, an orthodontic appliance or other intervention may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.
What is an Orthodontic Pacifier?
Orthodontic pacifiers are specially designed with baby’s developing teeth in mind and help to minimize misalignment caused by pacifiers. The shape of the nipple supports the developing jaw and palate. Traditional round pacifiers may have a higher chance of causing an open bite or overbite than orthodontic pacifiers do. Orthodontic pacifiers can be found at most major retailers where pacifiers are sold. Look for the pacifiers labeled as orthodontic pacifiers or search online.
Are Pacifiers Bad?
No! Babies are born with the natural instinct to suck and find it to be soothing. A pacifier is a great way to comfort a cranky or unhappy baby. If it’s possible to use toys or other distractions to calm your baby, it’s a good way to cut down on pacifier time. But no, pacifiers themselves are not bad. In fact, some medical experts recommend pacifiers so that a child doesn’t start to suck their thumb – which is a much harder habit to break. Some parents may find that their baby doesn’t like a pacifier and that’s okay too.
Advantages of Pacifiers
- Soothes a baby and satisfies natural instinct to suck
- Easier to quit than thumb sucking
- Pacifiers at bed or nap-time may decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS) or crib death up to 90%
Disadvantages of Pacifiers
- Improper pacifier use can lead to problems breastfeeding
- Prolonged use can cause orthodontic bite problems
- Can be a difficult habit to break
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I clean a pacifier?
- Before the first time you use a pacifier it is typically recommended to clean the pacifier by placing it in boiling water. Some pacifiers can shorten this process and be disinfected in a microwave, but it’s best to check the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific pacifier. This should be done at regular intervals to make sure it remains clean.
When should I introduce a pacifier to my baby?
- There really isn’t a hard rule of thumb. Many newborn babies will benefit from the use of a pacifier. However, if parents choose to breastfeed, it is recommended to wait until breastfeeding has been well established to avoid nipple confusion.
How often should pacifier be replaced?
- Check the pacifier before each use and discard at the first signs of damage or weakness to avoid a choking hazard. This is especially important when a baby is teething and/or if they chew on the pacifier.
How often and for how long should a baby use a pacifier in a day?
- If possible, try to limit a baby’s pacifier time to a maximum of 6 hours a day. Try to only offer a pacifier when a baby needs to be soothed and not when they are already happy.