What do we know about pacifiers and dental health? We know that babies have a strong sucking reflex, and some even suck their thumbs or fingers before they are born. We also know that pacifiers or soothers are used to calm down a baby. Ask any mom, and they will tell you that it’s a tried-and-true way to soothe a fussy baby. Make sure to have a pacifier handy to distract your little one when it’s time for a medical procedure. The next time your toddler joins you for a flight, make sure to have two ready-to-go. Your baby can’t intentionally pop their ears by swallowing, so sucking on a pacifier will relieve in-flight ear pain.
What is a pacifier?
A pacifier is a rubber, plastic, or silicone nipple substitute given to an infant to suckle between feedings to quiet its distress by satisfying the need to suck when it does not need to eat. Pacifiers typically have three parts, an elongated teat, a mouth shield, and a handle.
Should I offer a pacifier as the first option?
It’s good to find an alternative approach to calm your baby before offering a pacifier. For example, if your baby is fuzzy, maybe it’s time for a rocking session, a change of position, or a quick burp. If it’s necessary, then that is okay as well. Many parents use them.
When is the best time to introduce a pacifier?
Some parents worry introducing a pacifier too early will impact their breastfeeding regimen. In this case, you might want to consider waiting until your baby is in a good routine at about 3 to 4 weeks.
Pacifier and dental health
We know the overuse of pacifiers can impact the growth and development of the mouth and teeth. For example, extended pacifier use can begin to change the shape of the roof of the mouth, inhibit the proper growth of the mouth, and create problems with tooth alignment.
How can I reduce dental harm?
It’s good to restrict pacifier use to when your child needs help falling asleep. A second very achievable goal is to wean your child off a pacifier at 12 months of age. If you need to use the pacifier more often and longer, then be proactive with jaw and teeth evaluations. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that you have your child’s dentist evaluate her jaw and teeth if your child is still using his soother at three years of age. It’s best to get your child to stop sucking before permanent teeth come in, at about age five.
There are benefits to using a pacifier.
Benefits include being a temporary distraction at the doctor’s office, helping as a sleep aid, and increasing your chances of a successful flight.
- Pacifier use might increase the risk of middle ear infections.
- Pacifier use may interfere with speech development.
- Prolonged pacifier use might lead to dental problems
Smart pacifier use
Avoid forcing pacifier use on your baby; let your infant guide the decision-making. If your baby does not take to the pacifier, you can explore different sizes and shapes to determine the best fit. Keep the pacifier clean, and don’t clean the pacifier by putting it in your mouth. Inspect for wear and tear and tale away from the pacifier if your baby is chewing on it. A worn-out pacifier will break down, and the little pieces will break off and become a choking hazard. Schedule an appointment!