How Pacifiers Affect Infant Teeth

Pacifiers are considered a modern staple for a new baby. They’re added to baby shower gift registries, thrown haphazardly into diaper bags and purses, and even clipped to carseats and clothes with fancy straps to keep them within easy reach. Their considered the remedy for a fussy baby, as the natural instinct to suck for comfort is subdued with this nipple alternative. However, prolonged use of pacifiers are to blame for many dental issues.

“Pacifiers can have some adverse effects on the structures of the oral cavity, especially after prolonged use,” said Dr. Abhinav Sinha, director of the pediatric dental clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. (Source: New York Times)
Fortunately, we’ll go over some of the major issues and some ways that you can either avoid them or take precautions to ensure optimum dentation for your children.


Complications Associated with Pacifiers
Ever wonder why your front teeth don’t touch? There’s a possibility that pacifiers are to blame. Another common effect is a posterior cross bite, more commonly called an overbite. This is when the upper dentation overlaps the lower one abnormally.
Even before these issues can occur, pacifier can effect proper dentation from happening at all. When used beyond the recommended age of 5, pacifier use can delay the front baby teeth from coming out within a normal time frame and slow down the emergence of adult teeth. Additionally, increased pacifier use has been linked with an increase in ear infections and speech problems according to recent studies.


Lastly, some parents have found that dipping pacifiers into sugar or honey tends to calm the baby more readily than a pacifier alone. Unfortunately, this practice can lead to tooth decay and early diabetes.


How to Avoid Pacifier Problems
Most children give up the pacifier on their own between the ages of 1 and 2. However, if it doesn’t seem that this will be the case, it’s responsible of the parent to work with their child and break the habit. There are a plethora of methods to do this, and many forums or articles can be found online with suggestions. The first step is for caregivers to simply explain to the child that it’s time to give the pacifier up. Sometimes bringing a dentist in to reiterate this explanation can have better results. Gradually reducing pacifier use is also effective, as it is with most other addictions. Reward systems or positive reinforcement in various forms are also a wonderful tool to encourage toddlers to let go for the pacifier.


One proactive thing parents can do is to remove the pacifier from a child the moment they go to sleep. Another suggestion made by many dentists is to choose a pacifier that is orthodontically correct. They are designed to fit to developing jaws and palates of infants. The nipples of these types of pacifiers are flat to impersonate a mother’s nipple during breastfeeding. Nuk pacifiers were specifically developed by orthodontists and are often recommended.



Thumb-Sucking vs. Pacifiers
Another question that often rides along with pacifiers in many parental consultations is thumb-sucking because it is a natural alternative for that sucking instinct for infants and toddlers. Unfortunately, thumb sucking can cause similar problems to a pacifier, with one additional negative. Pacifier use can be controlled and limited, whereas a thumb is always available for a child to suck. Just as with a pacifier, the above mentioned strategies can be used to encourage the child to give it up.


It’s up to You
Among all the battles parents have to struggle through with their children, the excessive use of pacifiers is one worth fighting. By keeping your child’s teeth aligned, you set them up for a beautiful smile and optimum oral health into adulthood.

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