Help or Harm: How Do Pacifiers Really Affect Your Infant’s Oral Development?

You may be surprised to learn there are steps you should be taking to help your little one develop healthy teeth even before his first pearly whites break the surface. One of the most important things you can do early in your child’s life to put him on a path for successful oral development is to limit pacifier use.

Pacifiers Do Have a Place

If your baby is overly attached to his pacifier, do not panic. Your pediatric dentist in Leesburg is not going to tell you to take away your infant’s pacifier. In fact, your pediatric dentist will probably tell you it’s perfectly fine for your child to soothe himself by sucking on a pacifier occasionally through the age of three.

Babies and toddlers derive comfort from the sucking reflex. Providing your irritable baby with a pacifier is a healthier option than providing him with a bottle full of milk or formula or breastfeeding him when he’s not actually hungry. Your pediatric dentist will probably recommend that it’s time to wean your baby from his pacifier when he begins to lose his baby teeth — especially if he uses his pacifier often and for long periods of time.

The Risks of Prolonged Pacifier Use in Young Children

One of the most important aspects of preventative dentistry for children is regular checkups. These visits give your dentist an opportunity to identify emerging problems before they become full-blown problems. If you are having trouble weaning your child from his pacifier, it’s essential to have him evaluated for signs that the pacifier is changing the shape of his teeth and jaws. Habitual sucking can cause your child’s top front teeth to extend outward, bottom front teeth to tilt inward, a narrowing of the roof of his mouth, and jaw misalignment (which can be painful).

When It’s Time to Say Goodbye to the Pacifier

Any habit can be tough to break, especially for a young child. By the time you need to wean your child from the pacifier, he should be old enough to understand simple reasoning. Don’t threaten and punish, but use positive reinforcement to help him make the break. Allow him to choose a new toy in exchange for giving up his pacifier. Try to make the process feel like a rite of passage toward becoming a “big boy.” You can even make it fun! Some parents hold going away parties for “binky,” culminating in the child ceremoniously mailing his pacifier(s) away.  Contact us if you’re concerned your child’s pacifier is harming his teeth.