Pacifier is one of the most convenient tool to use during the early stage of a baby, with the proper use and duration it helps for self-soothing, feel a sense of security, relaxation, and even to fall asleep. It’s great if it works bit it also comes with drawbacks if used longer than needed, dental problems being the most common.
Misaligned teeth can have a variety of causes, from genetics, malnutrition and oral habits, one of the side effects a pacifier could have is crooked teeth along with other dental issues. If a baby develops a habit which could go on for too long, it could lead to some serious dental issues and more. We list down some of the most common effects of pacifiers.
Dental effects of pacifier
- Open bite: This is a type of dental misalignment, in which the teeth are angled outward and may not completely close or touch, even if the mouth is closed. Larger spaces between the front teeth are also common.
- Overbite: This is a very similar to an open bite, with the teeth directed outward. But in this case, the top teeth cover the bottom teeth far more than what’s natural.
- Crooked Teeth: This is a type of dental misalignment, in which the teeth are crowding, differently sized or shaped lower and upper jaws, missing teeth, too many teeth and poor tooth or palate development.
- Buckteeth: In some cases protruding front teeth, are hereditary, and there’s no way to prevent them. However, thumb sucking and pacifier use can also cause the condition.
- Changes to the roof of the mouth: Extended use of pacifiers can cause a narrowing or general misshaping of the roof of the mouth.
How to use pacifier safely
- Keep it clean – Your baby will drop it (every single chance they could) and it will not fall on clean surface all the time. Make sure to rinse the pacifier regularly in clean water.
- Keep it simple – The last thing we want is for our babies to swallow tiny things, don’t use pacifiers with moving parts, liquid interiors or gadgets. Stick to the plain yet safe pacifier.
- Keep it safe – Don’t attach a pacifier to your baby’s clothes with string or ribbon. Yes, it will prevent the pacifier from falling to the floor or getting lost but it could also be strangle your baby if it’s too long.
- Keep it plain – Pacifiers are not made to feed your baby, or boost their appetite. Don’t dip pacifiers in sweet liquids like honey or syrup before giving them to your baby, as this can cause cavities.
Is a thumb better than a pacifier?
There are pros and cons for each, and it often comes down to the personal preferences of your baby. As young as your baby is, you can’t just decide and force him to suck on a pacifier more so his thumb.
It might look like thumb (or other fingers) sucking is more natural for your baby but the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends the use of pacifier over thumb. Infants naturally love to suck, and self-soothe by sucking their thumbs. But when the time comes to discourage the habit to avoid dental problems, it’s much easier to control pacifier use than it is to prevent thumb-sucking.
By the age of 6 months your little one will start to crawl and hold on to surface which will expose their hands to more germs, which we don’t want our babies to get. It is also one of the reasons why doctors recommends pacifier over thumb.
Different Types of Pacifiers
Once breastfeeding is firmly established (about three to four weeks) it is now recommended to introduce a pacifier. The decision to use it though will be from your baby, but you can give him some good options to choose from depending on your baby’s age and needs.
The best pacifier changes based on your baby’s use of it, they could start with the best newborn pacifier but could transition to a teething pacifier when the time comes. It is important to know that there are different types of pacifiers for different uses and stages. After knowing why your baby might need the help of a pacifier, here are the types where you can narrow your selection down.
- Orthodontic baby pacifiers have nipples that are flattened at the bottom and rounded at the top. During sucking, these types of pacifiers flatten in baby’s mouth, which provides the most natural sucking action and reduces pressure on developing teeth.
- Round-tip baby pacifiers are more traditional and most likely the kind you had when you were a child. The round shape is supposed to mimic the form of an actual nipple, which is why these types of pacifiers are often suggested for breastfed babies in order to prevent nipple confusion.
- Silicone baby pacifiers are sturdier, easier to clean and more widely available.
- Latex baby pacifiers tend to be softer and more flexible, but the softness of the material also means there’s a potential for an older child with teeth to inadvertently bite off a piece of the nipple. Also worth noting: If there’s a chance your little one might have a latex allergy, it’s best to opt for silicone.
- One-piece baby pacifiers are made out of a single molded piece of plastic, silicone or latex. The single-piece design minimizes the risk of choking, since the pacifier can’t easily come apart.
- Multiple-piece baby pacifiers are the most common types of pacifiers. These usually consist of a nipple, a guard and a ring, and each of the components is manufactured separately before being combined into the traditional pacifier shape.
When to stop using pacifiers?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend limiting or stopping pacifier use around 6 months to reduce the risk of ear infection. You can start gradually and slowly removing the pacifier specially if you don’t want them to get attached, because by the age of 9 months they start to develop an emotional attachment.
Here comes the tricky part in using a pacifier, the weaning part where it will be slow (and tiring for moat parr) for you and your baby. It will require a lot of patience but you have to take it all in because the earlier you make your little one stop using a pacifier, the better for you both. It’s ideal to start this process at around 6-7 months.
You know your baby well and you would know if they are truly ready to let the pacifier go, don’t put so much pressure on making it happen overnight. Remember that start of changes are difficult even for adults, what more for babies. If you feel like it’s time to stop using a pacifier, or if you baby is getting the early negative effects of a pacifier (like ear infection), here are some tips that might help you break the pacifier habit gently.
Tips for weaning a pacifier
- Offer to use other tools like a blankie, teddy or one of his favorite toys. Divert his interest to other things that usually surrounds him, so the next time he looks for his pacifier and can’t get a hold of it, your baby will look for the second interesting stuff instead.
- Set a couple of “pacifier-free” times during the day. Start with 30 minutes and try extending it for as long as you can. Since pacifier helps with calming your baby down you might also try and introduce other ways for them to control their emotions, like counting from 1-10, or breathing 10 deep breaths.
- Avoid saying you’re giving his pacifier to another baby. That may create jealousy every time he sees a baby with another pacifier, or worst he might try to get other baby’s pacifier.
- Limit pacifier use to certain situations like sleep or stressful times when your baby needs calming. Only give it to your little one if he really need it the most.
So, does the use of pacifier cause crooked teeth? It could, BUT with the proper use it could be avoided. There are also so many other factors why a child could have or develop crooked teeth. As for pacifiers, all with moderation and right duration could benefit you and your baby a lot. It helps them to self-soothe, calm down, gives relief in stressful situation, a sense of security in unfamiliar environment, so don’t be surprised if they find it hard to let it go.
Your baby’s health and well-being is the top priority so if you are having a difficult time dealing with his pacifier weaning or his dental health, the best recommendation is for you to talk to a specialist (your baby’s pediatrician or dentist) to get the professional advise that will also give you peace of mind.
Are you having the same problem with your baby right now? I hope some of the information in this article helped in any way. Do you have a success story about pacifier weaning? Share it in the comments down below. Let us know what you think.