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The Effect of a Pacifier on Your Child’s Teeth

small girl with pink pacifier

For years, the debate has gone on about whether a pacifier is ultimately helpful or detrimental to a child’s developing teeth. No doubt, the issue of a pacifier’s effect on teeth is complex. Yet, answers are available for those who want to understand what consequences can occur to teeth from toddler pacifier use.

Here at Toothfairy Pediatric Dental in Reno, we regularly provide infant oral care to our youngest patients. During these visits, parents often ask questions like:

  • “Should we have our child to use a pacifier?”
  • “Will my child’s teeth be misshapen from using a pacifier?”
  • “What’s the best way to wean my child off of a pacifier?”

Our team of experts at Tooth Fairy Dentistry can provide some insight about the effect of a pacifier on your child’s teeth.

Pro’s of Pacifier Use

Consider this situation that every parent has dealt with at one point or another: your young child is crying and seems inconsolable. Quickly, you run to find your child’s pacifier and pop it into their mouth. Within a few seconds, your child’s wailing begins to subside. In a minute or two, they’re contentedly sucking their pacifier, quiet and calm at last.

It’s important to start by understanding that pacifier use in and of itself is not wrong. In fact, there are several positive reasons to allow your baby to use a pacifier.

  • Pacifier use can aid sleep: For many infants, pacifier use may be key to a good night’s sleep. By simulating the sensation of weaning, a child will typically relax and quickly drift off to sleep.
  • Pacifier use can reduce the occurrence of SIDS: The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study stating that the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can decrease with pacifier use at bedtime or naptime.
  • Pacifier use can help soothe an irritated baby: This shouldn’t surprise us—after all, it’s called a pacifier for a reason!
  • Pacifier use can help abate thumb sucking: Utilizing a pacifier, a parent can effectively train their child not to suck on their thumb. Most experts agree that breaking the habit of pacifier use is much simpler in the long run than trying to get a child to stop sucking a thumb.

In any conversation about the overall effect of a pacifier on your child’s teeth, the overall positive effect of a pacifier must be kept in mind.

Cons of Pacifier Use

crying baby

There are compelling reasons behind pacifier use for children. Yet, there are also negative aspects that should be weighed as well.

  • Prolonged pacifier use can hinder teeth and bone development: As children grow older, pacifier use can hinder the long-term development of the teeth and jaw.
  • Pacifier use can encourage middle ear infections: The constant sucking of a pacifier can cause a child’s auditory tubes to open wider than normal. The enlarged opening can cause bacteria to more easily enter the middle ear, which in turn can cause an ear infection.
  • Weaning a child off a pacifier can be difficult: Once a child becomes accustomed to a pacifier, they often don’t want to give it up easily. By not introducing a child to a pacifier in the first place, you won’t have to deal with this struggle.

There’s no doubt that there can be some level of harm to developing teeth from toddler pacifier use, as well as other troubling issues. Let’s explore in more detail how a pacifier can hinder proper tooth and jawbone development.

What is the Effect of a Pacifier on Your Child’s Teeth?

Concerned parents often ask us if their child will need orthodontic treatment simply because they gave their child a pacifier when they were young. To answer that question, consider the impact of pacifier use on different age groups:

  • Newborns: Although care should be taken to ensure that a baby doesn’t use a pacifier constantly, there are little to no negative long-term effects from newborn pacifier use. Just remember to follow our infant oral care tips to protect their developing teeth and gums.
  • Age 1 to age 2: During this transitional time period, a child’s first teeth are beginning to poke their way through the gums. Excessive pacifier use at this age can alter the positioning of teeth as they emerge. However, by weaning your child off of their pacifier at this age, any effect of a pacifier on your toddler’s teeth will naturally correct itself within a six month period. This is why your child’s first dental visit, as well as the semi-annual checkups that follow, are so important for young children.
  • Age 2 to age 4: According to the American Dental Association, these formative years are the perfect time to discontinue pacifier use. By prolonging a child’s use of a pacifier at this age, you can cause long-term ill-effects to the alignment of your child’s teeth.

Simply put, the older your child is, the greater the effect of a pacifier on your child’s teeth.

How To Wean Your Child Off A Pacifier

child reaching for pacifier

We know it won’t be easy, but here are some simple solutions to help:

  • Poke a small hole in the nipple of a pacifier. A small hole in the tip of a pacifier will render it almost unusable. This can help train a child not to ask for it anymore.
  • Dip a pacifier in watered-down vinegar. This slightly sour taste will discourage them from desiring to use a pacifier.
  • Try to use a carrot, not a stick. The best way to train a child to stop using a pacifier is to give positive reinforcement. Instead of scolding them for wanting a pacifier, praise them for eschewing it. For older children, consider using a reward system like a sticker chart and give them a prize for going a certain number of days without their pacifier.

Visit Toothfairy Pediatric Dental In Reno

If you’re concerned about the effect of a pacifier on your child’s teeth, call Toothfairy Pediatric Dental at (775) 800-4117 to set up an appointment for your child. With six locations in the Reno area, we have a friendly office near your home. Plus, with convenient Saturday appointments available, we’ll make it simple to help your young child to receive the oral care they deserve. We also accept most dental insurance plans, including Medicaid.

If you have questions, contact us today and we’ll be glad to help!