The choice to use a pacifier is a decision that every parent must make. These small items can act as a soothing device, helping little ones handle stressful situations, decrease crying, and even improve bedtime and nap-time routines. However, many parents are hesitant to use a pacifier as they can be known to harm baby’s teeth. But are they actually harmful and should parents avoid them?
Can Pacifiers Damage a Child’s Teeth?
Long-term pacifier use has been known to cause damage to a child’s teeth. However, for damage to occur, the child typically needs to use the pacifier extensively and be an aggressive sucker. This is because sucking hard and for long periods of time can change the roof of a child’s mouth and affect the mouth’s growth. According to the American Dental Association, if a child is an aggressive sucker, whether with the pacifier or the thumb, there will be more dental issues than if the child just likes to keep the item in his or her mouth for soothing purposes.
When Should a Child Stop Using a Pacifier?
The right age for children to stop using a pacifier is a controversial topic. There are many benefits to using a pacifier including that it lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but it can have many negative effects when a child begins talking. For example, if a child is learning to speak, a pacifier makes the child hold his or her mouth unnaturally, making it more difficult for him to properly develop mouth muscles to form sounds. Most experts recommend that a child stop using a pacifier between the ages of two to four years old, if not earlier. If a child is beginning to show less interest in the pacifier, it may be wise for parents to begin weaning him off as soon as possible. Using a pacifier can be an extremely difficult habit to break and living without it is not only hard on the child, but for an entire family.
Tips for Breaking the Pacifier Habit
To help wean your child off the pacifier, here are a few tips.
• At first, only let your child us the pacifier at nap-time and bedtime. Then, gradually move to just bedtime.
• Gradually make the pacifier smaller. Each day, cut a small piece off the pacifier. Over time, they’ll have nothing left to suck on and won’t want it anymore.
• Help your child give the pacifier away or trade it in for a new toy or stuffed animal.
• Just take it away. You may have a few difficult days but your child will eventually forget about it.
If you have questions regarding your child’s pacifier use or need additional help breaking the habit, talk to your paediatric dentist for guidance.