Monday, December 6th, 2021 
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Pacifiers and Toddlers - The Habit That Must be Broken

Toddlers and Pacifiers

Should you give your baby a pacifier? Using a pacifier comes with both benefits and downsides, according to the Academy of General Denistry (AGD). On the positive side, pacifiers provide a source of comfort to infants and can be great for children, especially during their first six months. In addition to its calming effect, pacifier use in infants can help decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and aid in the development of jaw muscles.

Although pacifier use is generally a healthy habit within the first two years of life, continued or improper use may ultimately have a negative impact on your child’s oral and overall health. Prolonged pacifier use can cause changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth, prevent proper growth of the mouth and create problems with tooth alignment.

If a child continues using a pacifier past the age of 3, serious dental malformation can occur. The most common malformation is an open space in the front teeth or an overbite in which the upper teeth protrude.

Potential pacifier problems

Pacifier use typically is acceptable after an infant is 1 month old and has had sufficient time to develop a healthy breast-feeding habit. However, experts recommend that children stop using pacifiers after age 2, when it becomes more of a habit than a developmental need. Research shows that continued pacifier use, especially after age 2, often is associated with:

  • Increased risk of middle ear infection.
  • Improper growth of the mouth.
  • Misalignment of teeth.
  • Dental crossbite and/or open bite.
  • Development of a thumb-sucking habit.

Tips for correct pacifier use

For infants, correct use and care of pacifiers must be considered. Here are a few tips:

  • Purchase orthodontically designedpacifiers.
  • Clean pacifiers regularly.
  • Check frequently for cracks,discoloration, or tears in pacifiers’ rubber. Discard if damaged.
  • Replace old pacifiers
  • Wash pacifiers prior to first use
  • Do not tie pacifiers around yourinfant’s neck
  • Offer pacifiers after and between meals, before naps, or at bedtime.

Breaking the pacifier habit

The AGD recommends that children stop using pacifiers by age two. (Up until that age, any alignment problem with the teeth or the developing bone is usually corrected within six months after pacifier use is stopped.) Breaking the habit is not always easy. Here are a few suggestions for helping a child wean from the pacifier:

  • Dip the pacifier in white vinegar
  • Pierce the top of the pacifier or cut it shorter to reduce sucking satisfaction
  • Leave it behind on a trip - COLD TURKEY

At the very least, children who use pacifiers past their toddler years may eventually need braces, and that alone should alert parents to the potential for dental problems and expense. We urge you to reach out if you have any questions or concerns about this issue, or any other, concerning your child's teeth.

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