Pacifiers certainly have their benefits. Not only can they be comforting to your baby, but they may actually reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), especially if your child uses one while sleeping .
However, pacifiers can also have negative impacts on the growth of your child’s mouth, jaw, and teeth, especially if used for extended periods of time.
How can pacifiers impact your child’s oral health? Here’s what you need to know about oral health and pacifier use.
Pacifiers Could Affect Mouth Growth and Development
If your baby is using a pacifier over a long period of time, it can actually change the shape of your child’s mouth, specifically the roof of the mouth.
What exactly is considered prolonged use of a pacifier? Your baby should be completely weaned off a pacifier by age two. Some professionals even suggest stopping or limiting use of the pacifier as early as six months of age .
If the development of the roof of your baby’s mouth is impacted, your child could have what’s called an open bite, where the top and bottom rows of teeth won’t touch in the front even when the mouth is closed.
Pacifiers Have the Potential to Cause Teeth Alignment Issues
Just as prolonged thumb sucking can affect tooth alignment, so can long-term pacifier use. Your child’s teeth may slant forward or protrude from the mouth and the teeth may not come in properly.
Your child may have crooked, crowded, or misaligned teeth. They could also experience changes in their jaw development or alignment with consistent and prolonged use of a pacifier.
Unfortunately, children who experience teeth or jaw alignment issues from pacifier misuse will require orthodontic intervention in the future. Teeth that are affected won’t fix themselves and any jaw or bite issues won’t go away on their own.
Guidelines to Follow When Using Pacifiers for Healthy Teeth
While pacifiers can certainly be helpful, parents should use them with the understanding that they are temporary, not a habit to be encouraged.
You can follow the below tips for keeping your child’s tooth and jaw development healthy even with use of a pacifier in their infancy:
– Consider only using a pacifier during your child’s nap and sleep time.
– Consider stopping or limiting use of the pacifier once your baby is able to coo, which indicates that they have control over their tongue and no longer need a pacifier.
– In any case, ensure your child is weaned off the pacifier by the time they are two years old.
– Avoid dipping the pacifier in a sweet solution such as honey; this can encourage tooth decay.
– Consider using the pacifier to soothe your baby only as a last resort once he or she is past the age of one.
You can talk more with your child-friendly dentist about the use of a pacifier and continue to schedule regular checkups for your little one to ensure their tooth development is on track!
When using a pacifier, it’s important to exercise caution so that your baby can have healthy teeth and gums for life. By using a pacifier properly, you can enjoy its benefits while reducing the risk that your child would experience oral health problems as a result. Talk to your dentist or pediatrician more about safe pacifier use!