Pacifiers are great for, well, pacifying children, but prolonged or excessive use may result in the development of pacifier teeth. This condition can have a negative impact on the function of your child's baby teeth, as well as on the overall oral health of your child.
That's why in this article, we'll answer the following questions:
- What are pacifier teeth?
- Are they reversible?
- Should you be giving a pacifier to your newborn?
Keep reading to get answers to all of these questions and make smart decisions when it comes to using pacifiers for your little ones.
Table of contents
- 1 What are pacifier teeth?
- 2 Why are pacifier teeth such a big deal?
- 3 Pros and cons of using pacifiers
- 4 Pacifiers and emotional comfort
- 5 Stopping pacifier use
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 FAQs
What are pacifier teeth?
Parents have been relying on newborn pacifiers to calm their kids for a long time. Also known as a ‘soother', ‘binky', ‘dodie', or ‘teether', these pacifiers are silicone or plastic nipples that are given to an infant to suck on. But are pacifiers really a good idea? Some may say no, and oftentimes their primary reason is pacifier teeth.
Pacifier teeth refers to a condition that occurs from the prolonged use of pacifiers. The mouth and teeth of a baby start developing in the womb and continue to develop and grow throughout their childhood. During this period, anything kept in their mouth can negatively affect their oral and dental development.
Just like a baby sucking their thumb can lead to oral problems, pacifiers could also end up harming their mouths more than benefitting them. As per the Americal Dental Association, using pacifiers can lead to a handful of side effects which include:
- Crooked or crowded teeth
- Jaw misalignment
- Problems with biting
- Protrusion of the tongue
- Changes in the roof of the mouth
- Change in the position of teeth
In other words, using a newborn pacifier has multiple potential side effects for a baby's teeth. Sometimes, pacifiers may even necessitate the use of braces in some children.
This raises an important question for many parents to consider: Why use a pacifier at all? Should I use one with my baby? Let's find out.
Why are pacifier teeth such a big deal?
For every mother with a newborn or an infant at home, pacifiers can be a pretty big deal. If your child uses one, chances are it is their favorite go-to accessory. Pacifiers successfully help countless adults calm distressed children.
There are also some indications that pacifiers can be good for babies. Many rely on this tool to calm their children and let them go to sleep peacefully. In fact, up to 75 percent of the babies in the west are said to use pacifiers at some point in their lives.
Pros and cons of using pacifiers
Despite what most people believe about pacifiers, it is important that you make your own decision. To do this, it can help to familiarize yourself with the common advantages and disadvantages of these soothing tools.
Despite a high risk of pacifier teeth damage, these tools are a key to contentment for many babies between mealtimes. Consider the following advantages of using a pacifier in children.
- A pacifier calms a fussy baby.
- A pacifier acts as a temporary distraction.
- A pacifier can distract a child after a painful procedure such as a blood test or vaccine shots.
- A pacifier helps your child fall asleep.
- A pacifier makes airplane travel easier for babies.
- Pacifiers are disposable, babies sucking fingers have a harder time stopping because you can't get rid of a finger!
In addition to these benefits, some studies also suggest that a pacifier used before falling asleep reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If you are still breastfeeding your baby but want them to use pacifiers for prevention, wait until the baby is at least 4 weeks old. Sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS is the most common cause of fatalities in babies between the ages of 1 month to 1 year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pacifiers can reduce the risk of SIDS even after they fall out of the baby's mouth once they fall asleep.
Have a look at the top 8 Do's and Dont's of pacifier use:
Despite some very useful advantages associated with pacifier use, they still have certain disadvantages. These disadvantages are mentioned below and should be considered while deciding whether you want your child to use a pacifier or not.
- Using pacifiers may affect breastfeeding.
- A pacifier may create dependency.
- A pacifier may cause ear infections.
- A pacifier may cause dental problems like pacifier teeth and misaligned teeth, which could later lead to braces.
Mentioned below are the benefits and risks of using a pacifier in children of different age groups, according to this study.
Pacifiers and emotional comfort
Experts keep asking parents to break the pacifier habit as soon as they can. This is because, besides oral health issues, it can become a source of emotional comfort in many children.
If your baby has gone through the reflexive sucking stage of using a pacifier and still refuses to leave it, chances are they have developed an emotional attachment to it. In these circumstances, breaking the pacifier habit can be quite difficult.
If your child has already found emotional comfort in a pacifier, do not worry. It is never too late to make things right. There are many online resources that can help break the habit of finding comfort in a pacifier, including articles like this one in the New York Times.
Stopping pacifier use
Does your baby use a pacifier too much? Are you afraid they are going to develop pacifier teeth? There are certain ways to get rid of the pacifier habit. Some of these tips are mentioned below.
- Don't ever force your child to use a pacifier. If they are asleep and the pacifier falls out without waking up the baby, do not attempt to put it back in.
- Never coat the pacifier with anything, for example, sugar or honey, just to encourage the babies to use it.
- Try to buy one-piece pacifiers. The ones with two pieces can break and can be choking hazards.
- Do not add a ribbon or a tie to the pacifier. Moreover, do not tie the pacifier around the bed or your child as this increases the risk of accidental strangulation.
- While shopping for a pacifier, choose one with a shield wider than your child's mouth. Also, ensure that there is a hole in the shield as this helps the child breathe if they accidentally swallow the pacifier.
- Always try alternative methods to calm your baby before using a pacifier.
The most suitable time to stop pacifier use in children to avoid pacifier teeth can be determined with the help of a doctor. In most cases, parents tend to break the habit between 6 months to 1 year of age. The use of a pacifier is discouraged in children above the age of 4 years.
Pacifiers are indeed a great way to calm a crying baby, but there is a proper place and time to use them before they become more damaging than useful. In addition to learning about the pros and cons, it's not a bad idea to speak with a dentist about your concerns. Remember, pacifiers can lead to several problems like the development of pacifier teeth which can only be reversed with proper medical care.
The dentist can keep an eye on the dental health of your child as they grow, and make sure that they can use pacifiers without developing pacifier teeth.
Will pacifier teeth correct themselves?
The simple answer is no. Once your baby has developed pacifier teeth, there is no way to correct themselves naturally. Almost every case requires proper intervention and correction which is why prevention is the best cure in this scenario.
Is it OK for my baby to have a pacifier during sleep?
Even if your baby is not crying, using a pacifier can help them go to sleep faster which ultimately means more sleep for the parent too. However, this practice can sometimes be dangerous due to the risk of accidental swallowing and choking. So, be extremely cautious if you are giving your baby a pacifier at night.
What questions should I ask my doctor regarding pacifiers?
Following are some of the questions you should ask your doctor regarding pacifiers:
- Will my baby get a pacifier from the hospital when they are born?
- Are hospital pacifiers safe?
- Is the plastic used to make the pacifier toxic?
- Is it unkind to let the baby cry while weaning them from pacifiers?
Should you coat the pacifier with candy?
Absolutely not. In fact, it is a really bad idea to coat the pacifier with candy. Just think about it: You are giving your little one something covered in sugar and allowing them to suck on it for a long duration of time. This can lead to tooth decay which is something you certainly don't want. So, avoid coating it with anything and never force your child to use it when they don't want to.
When should children stop using a pacifier?
According to both AADP and ADA, the use of pacifier must be actively discouraged in children as soon as they reach the age of 4 years.
How often should you replace a pacifier?
While there is no fixed answer to this question, it is generally advised to check the pacifier before giving it to your baby every time. It must be thrown away as soon as you detect the first signs of weakness or damage. As a rule of thumb, most experts advise changing the pacifier every two months in order to maintain good hygiene.