Experts on parenting and health have long had conflicting views on the use of pacifiers as a means of comforting babies. While some children never show an interest in using a pacifier, others become very attached. From a pediatric dentistry perspective, long-term use of pacifiers is a problem, as they can negatively affect the development of your child’s mouth.
Some experts think pacifiers could interfere with speech development. If your child often has a pacifier in his mouth, he may be less likely to babble and practice talking, or the pacifier may distort his speech.
While the long-term use of pacifiers threatens your child’s oral development, there are benefits to pacifiers that short term use can that may offer. Pacifiers help calm and soothe babies at bed time and may also help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (source: mayoclinic.org).
Pacifiers vs. Thumb-Sucking
Short-term use of the pacifier or short spans of usage throughout the day is unlikely to cause significant issues that would outweigh the benefits of soothing your child. In fact, use of a pacifier is preferable to a thumb sucking. When it’s time to break these habits, thumb-sucking can be much more of a challenge to overcome—unlike thumbs, pacifiers can be taken away!
When To Phase Out Pacifier Use
When is the right time to phase out pacifier use? Many parents approach members of our dental team with this question. Use of the pacifier mostly at nap and bedtimes during the first two years is usually not a cause for concern. Constant use of the pacifier throughout the day can be slowly discouraged as the infant transitions into the toddler stage at one to two years old.
Most children are emotionally ready to completely wean off the pacifier by 2-4 years. Gentle verbal reminders, removing the pacifier from the mouth, or reading books about giving up the pacifier are all ways to cue your child. If gentle reminders are not enough, you can try bitter tasting fingernail polishes or thumb straps that get in the way of your child accessing the thumb. Your pediatric dentist can also fabricate custom in mouth appliances that prevent thumb sucking.
Dentistry for Children Near Hacienda Heights
At Hacienda Pediatric Dentistry, we are proud to have board-certified pediatric dentists on staff. Dr. Audrey Sheu brings years of advanced training and experience to every appointment, so you know your child’s smile is in caring hands. If you have questions, feel free to call 626-507-9982and schedule an appointment.