For parents with newborns at home, pacifiers can be useful for soothing your child when they are upset or crying. Pacifiers can also have an impact on oral health so keep some of these key points in mind:
Do pacifiers have an impact on oral health?
While perfectly fine for soothing your baby and providing comfort, it is important to avoid creating an overreliance. If your child spends too much time with a pacifier in their mouth, there are possible impacts relating to jaw growth in the long run, such as changes to the shape of the roof of the mouth or overbite.
When should pacifier use be stopped?
Your child should not be using a pacifier after the age of 2 years. Past this age, frequent usage can hamper the development of the jaw and the position of the front teeth. Overbite is one potential issue that can develop due to overuse. If your child has developed an overbite, alignment issues or jaw issues, know that these can possibly correct themselves over time as long as usage has been stopped early enough. Talk to your pediatric dentist about any questions you may have regarding your child’s pacifier use.
What about thumb sucking?
If your child sucks their thumb, know that this is a very similar motion as created by pacifier use. This means that many of the same issues can develop with the jaw and teeth if your child continues this behavior past the age of 2 or if they are over reliant on it.
Cleanliness and safety
It may seem obvious, but since pacifiers are being placed in your child’s mouth, you should ensure that they are clean. Never buy used ones, and always ensure that they are cleaned between each use so that your child is not exposed to the dirt or bacteria that can accumulate on the mouthpiece, especially if they have been dropped on the ground.
Additionally, make sure the child is never sucking the shield portion, and that there are holes in the shield portion to allow for adequate air flow for your child and in case they accidentally swallow it.
How to break the habit
Once your child is expecting a pacifier for comfort or soothing, it can become difficult to take it away. To stop use by the age of 2, consider weaning your child off of it by only providing it before sleep. You can also poke a hole in the tip or simply cut off the tip of the rubber part so that the sucking is not so satisfying for your child. This reduces stress-relieving cortisol in the brain and they will slowly not crave it as much.
Some parents go so far as to dip the tip in a substance (such as white vinegar) so that a negative association starts to develop between the child and the pacifier.
Finally, if all else fails, parents can always try to simply throw them out so they are no longer an option for the child.
Image Courtesy of Parent Map; https://www.parentmap.com/article/how-stop-pacifier-binky-toddler