Pacifiers are popular among parents to help babies stop crying, but pacifiers can also damage developing teeth. If pacifiers are left in a baby’s mouth for too long, they can contribute to adverse dental development and other long term oral development problems. The teeth of babies and toddlers are in a critical stage of development and are vulnerable to damage from anything going into their mouth. As the teeth emerge from the gums and begin shifting and fitting into the mouth, it is especially important to be vigilant about pacifier use. Here are some potential problems from sustained pacifier use and solutions to help prevent long term tooth damage in children.
Oral Health Problems
Constant pacifier use can potentially cause a gap between the upper front and lower teeth, and use past the age of 5 can delay the front primary teeth from falling out and delay the development of permanent teeth. Sustained use of a pacifier has also been shown to contribute to a posterior cross-bite. This condition occurs when the upper back teeth are tucked into the lower back teeth from the constant sucking. The upper teeth can also project beyond the lower teeth, creating a condition known as an over-jet. Beyond these potential malocclusions, sustained pacifier use has also been linked with ear infections and speech and language problems later in childhood.
Give Up the Pacifier Early
Preventing damage to a child’s teeth and other oral health problems comes down to weaning your child off the pacifier from a young age. Promoting positive oral health and tooth development starts at an early age, and from the emergence of the first primary teeth you should consider your child’s long term dental health. Dentists recommend getting your child off of a pacifier by the child’s second birthday, though weaning your child off earlier is ideal. Monitor your child’s tooth development and begin to discourage and limit pacifier use. Always remove the pacifier after the child has fallen asleep and try to begin coaxing your child from relying on it. As a tool for getting the child to fall asleep, pacifier use is acceptable, but gradually discourage use in any other context.
Actively preventing dependence on pacifiers can reduce or eliminate a lot of potential dental problems as the child develops. Most children will require braces as they transition into adolescence, so mitigating potential misalignment problems brought on by pacifier use is a positive step in the child’s oral development. Teeth and jaw malocclusions and speech problems are serious setbacks for children, so be sure to use pacifiers sparingly and make a dedicated effort to wean your child from pacifiers as soon as possible.