Avoiding the Pacifier: Is It Worth It?
Though long-used for infant comfort, the benefits of a pacifier are up for debate. Sucking is a reflex that is normal for infants, but sucking on a foreign object such as a pacifier can harm the development of different oral structures. Babies that have so-called “pacifier teeth” have a visible, almost circular gap in the middle of their front teeth. The two main questions parents have are “will pacifier use guarantee the misalignment of my child’s teeth?” and “how can I fix this issue if it has already happened?” Let’s address both of these questions and put some of your concerns at ease.
What causes “pacifier teeth” to occur?
In terms of development, letting a child suck on a pacifier is similar to letting them suck on their thumbs, use a bottle, or breastfeed. Over time if any object is constantly present in your child’s mouth it will affect the growth and shape of all oral structures. Not only can these things cause your child to have crooked teeth, they can also cause jaw misalignment and malformation of the roof of the mouth. Clearly breastfeeding and bottle use are essential in providing nutrients during infancy, but using them outside the recommended period poses risks for oral development.
How much is too much?
Many physicians and dentists alike believe that using a pacifier before a child is two years old will not cause any developmental harm. Especially if use if limited to right before bedtime, many of the unwanted negative effects can be avoided. It’s also important to avoid adding anything sweet to the tip of the pacifier, like sugar water or honey, because this puts your child at risk of cavities from a young age. If your child is over the age of two and still using a pacifier, it’s time to wean them off of it to ensure proper alignment of teeth. If your child hasn’t reached that age, plan ahead! It’s also okay not to use one at all-many parents have been successful with this strategy.