Often times during infancy, a pacifier may be the only thing keeping you sane. Infants can benefit from a pacifier early on (0-12 months) to help them self soothe before and during sleep. It is important to understand, however, that little ones should be weaned from their pacifiers as soon as possible in order to avoid bite problems and other oral issues (sometimes referred to as pacifier teeth). The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends children should stop using a pacifier by age 2. This brief guide features key information about the dental problems that can occur from excessive and prolonged pacifier use and helpful tips to prevent them.
What are the signs of pacifier teeth?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), there are several possible indicators that a child is developing pacifier teeth. These include teeth that are growing in crooked, an irregular bite such as an overbite or underbite, noticeably protruding front teeth, changes to tooth position and jaw alignment and modifications to the roof of the mouth. Often parents may notice the existence of pacifier teeth and/or other oral issues, not realizing they may be related to pacifier usage. It is very important to schedule regular checkups with a dental professional so these problems are recognized and addressed.
Pacifier versus thumb-sucking?
The AAPD does encourage infant pacifier usage over thumb sucking as a pacifier is easier to control when the time comes to discourage the habit, although both will cause oral issues if usage is prolonged. And pacifiers certainly do have their benefits. For infants who need extra soothing, pacifiers provide the perfect comfort and reassurance. Pacifiers can also help with pain management, reduce the risk of SIDS (according to the American Academy of Family Physicians) and can help shorten hospital stays for premature babies by teaching tube-fed infants how to use a bottle. Although there are several positives to using a pacifier, it is strongly encouraged to wean your child from the pacifier by age 2 in order to avoid the above-mentioned dental problems and possible orthodontic correction.
How do I break the pacifier habit?
Praise and encouragement are the best ways to discourage a pacifier habit. Praise your baby or toddler when a pacifier is not used, and provide a reward such as a star chart or a tooth-friendly prize for each night that goes by pacifier-free. Avoid stressful situations as much as possible if a pacifier is used to cope when your child is anxious or uncertain. More importantly, don’t punish or scold your child for using a pacifier; this may encourage its usage even more. Continue to carefully care for your baby’s teeth and gums, wiping gums after each infant feeding and brushing teeth twice a day.
If you are concerned that your child may be developing pacifier teeth or other dental issues, schedule an appointment today with one of our pediatric dentists at Lindner Dental Associates. Our professionals will assure their young patients’ teeth are coming in properly and can provide parents and caregivers with helpful tips to avoid problems caused by prolonged pacifier usage. Contact us online or call today (603)624-3900!