There is much debate regarding the use of pacifiers, but there is evidence to show that there are both pros and cons. PROS Contrary to popular … [Read More...]
There is much debate regarding the use of pacifiers, but there is evidence to show that there are both pros and cons.
Contrary to popular belief, there are some positive effects that result from sucking on pacifiers.
One is that they assist in reducing the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies who are offered a pacifier do not sleep as deeply as those who sleep without a pacifier. Pacifier sucking makes it possible for the infant to be aroused from a deep sleep that could result in the stopping of breathing.
However, parents should be aware of the negative effects of pacifier sucking on an infant’s oral health.
Children should stop using pacifiers by age 2. Up until the age of 2, any alignment problem with the teeth or the developing bone is usually corrected within a 6-month period after pacifier use is stopped. Prolonged pacifier use and thumb sucking can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth, alignment of the teeth and changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth.
If your toddler seems to be developing speech and language problems, a pacifier won’t help matters. That’s because sucking on a pacifier locks a child’s mouth in an unnatural position, making it more difficult for him to develop his tongue and lip muscles normally. If your child is just learning to speak, talking around a pacifier may also limit his opportunities to talk, distort his speech, and cause his tongue to unnaturally flatten at rest. In some cases, using a pacifier frequently can cause the tongue to push forward between the teeth. This sets the stage for dental problems and the development of a “lisp” when producing the s and z. sounds.
Are Pacifiers a Problem? During a child’s first few years, sucking habits probably won’t damage his or her mouth. But frequent and long-term sucking can cause problems. This is especially true if the habit continues after baby teeth start to fall out. Long-term sucking can cause:
Dental caries, malocclusion and gingival recession are commonly cited problems associated with pacifiers.Most studies have found that these problems exist only with prolonged (after age five) or inappropriate use (sweetened pacifier). A recent study showed significant differences in dental arch and occlusion characteristics in users at 24 months and 36 months of age compared with those that had stopped sucking by 12 months of age. Another study looked at children aged two to five years and also found significant increases in overjet (greater than 4 mm), openbite and posterior crossbite in pacifier users. The longer the use was, in months, the stronger the association with openbite and crossbite.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends pacifiers over thumb sucking because it is easier for a parent to control the sucking habit. They advise against putting sugar, honey or corn syrup on a soother because of the risk of promoting caries.
They state that a sucking habit should stop before the permanent teeth erupt. The American Dental Association also advises parents who choose to use a pacifier to use a clean, unsweetened one. They state that although prolonged use can harm the teeth, it is easier to wean a child’s sucking habit from a pacifier than from a thumb.
Breaking the Habit
Encouragement and praise are the best tools for breaking a pacifier habit. Praise your baby or toddler when he doesn’t use a pacifier, and provide a reward such as a star chart or a tooth-friendly prize for each night that goes by pacifier-free. If he tends to use the pacifier when anxious, avoid stressful situations as much as possible in the process of giving it up, and offer plenty of cuddles and other comforts. More importantly, don’t punish or scold your child for using a pacifier; this may encourage him to use it more to cope with the reprimand. Continue to care for your baby’s teeth as normal, cleaning them twice a day using a toothpaste specially formulated for infants.
Here are a few things to consider if your child uses a pacifier: