Pacifiers and Your Child's Teeth


Binky, dummy, paci, soother, plug, buddy..... these are all names I have heard people call a pacifier. Pacifiers can come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever your need, I am sure there is a pacifier to fill it.

I know this can be a hot topic. I am not here to shame anyone, ever. That isn't the point of this article. I wanted to share a perspective that many do not even consider. The teeth.

Last week my kids and I were walking into the grocery store when a mom and kids where in front of us. The little boy was about 3-4 years old and walking in with a pacifier in his mouth. He wasn't even sucking on it, just had it in his mouth. They were just going about their shopping. My kids asked me why he had it. I didn't know what to say, they usually only ever see them with babies. Why do older kids need pacifiers?

Why Are Pacifiers Used?

Pacifiers have been used for centuries in some form or another. The first introduction in medical literature was in 1473, by German physician Bartholomäus Metlinger. You can see they have been around for a very long time, but weren't really used like they are now until the 1900's. "In about 1902 a Manhattan pharmacist by the name of Christian W. Meinecke patented the first "baby comforter". (source) Originally pacifiers were used to help calm and soothe a new baby. As a breastfeeding mother, I wish any of my 5 children would have liked a pacifier to help keep them happy between feedings. No such luck here. There have even been studies done to see if they help combat SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). To date, there have been no definitive findings regarding whether it is beneficial or not.

Even before a baby is born, they have a need to suck or suckle. I remember seeing ultrasounds of my babies showing them sucking their fingers or thumb. Oddly enough, none actually sucked a thumb after birth. Sucking is a common, primitive reflex in babies. These reflexes originate in the central nervous system and tend to go away as we grow and mature. Sucking makes babies feel happy and secure. You don't generally see this behavior exhibited into adulthood.

Drawbacks of Pacifier Use

While pacifiers have their uses, there are some drawbacks. They include:

  • Middle ear infections

  • Nipple confusion when breast feeding

  • Tooth/mouth issues (cavities and overbite)

  • Strangulation - if tied to the child

  • Deterioration of the pacifier causing chocking issues

  • Germs

  • Crutch - can become a necessity where the child will not sleep without it

According to the AAP, there may be negative effects from using a pacifier during breastfeeding for healthy babies. It is suggested that they be avoided during the first month as to avoid nipple confusion and the infant ineffectively sucking at the breast. As a breastfeeding mother, I had also been told that a baby will "take their suck out on the pacifier" instead of nursing. It may decrease the mother's supply and/or the baby may not be getting the rich hind milk due to the lack of time at the breast. Please consider all of this when deciding on the use or a pacifier.

What is the Best Age to Stop Using a Pacifier?

According to the Journal of Pediatric Nursing, "research suggests no permanent mouth damage, even speech-impairing malformations of the mouth can be linked to a pacifier if the child stops using it before 36 months of age. However, during later tooth development, damage may result from long-term pacifier use." I realize that the research suggests this, however if you have ever seen a child who is still sucking a pacifier around age 3, I find their mouth has a different shape. I researched but I couldn't find any dental studies proving that a pacifier can change the shape of the mouth requiring expensive orthodontic treatments to correct it. Unfortunately, no one has taken the time to do that kind of study. If you think about it, orthodontists probably wouldn't want to inhibit their business.

When researching for this article I found the Super Nanny site. I didn't know she was still around! She suggests, "Discard the dummy during the day when the baby is about three to four months of age. However, it may be used whilst the baby goes to sleep up to the age of 12 months, as this has been shown to help reduce the risk of cot death." I really like the Super Nanny, she is a straight shooter. I think often times a pacifier is not taken away because it's easier to let the child have it. No judgement, just observation (I've given in to may other things, trust me).

On the Orthodontic Associates website, they state, "Continued use of a pacifier or other methods of soothing (like thumbs or fingers) can cause alignment issues of the teeth and mouth structure that can lead to orthodontic treatment that includes braces. Long-term pacifier use can cause:

  • Overbite (top front teeth jut out)

  • Underbite (bottom front teeth to face inwards)

  • Open bite (top and bottom teeth don’t overlap)

  • Crooked teeth

  • Top and bottom teeth not meeting when the mouth is closed

  • Changes to the roof of the mouth

  • Misalignment of upper and lower jaws

  • The roof of the mouth to be narrower side to side

  • Spacing

  • Speech impediments

Remember what I said earlier about the shape of the mouth being different? It seems more elongated with more of a buck tooth than the correct, "U" shape.

Getting Rid of the Pacifier

If you decide to remove a pacifier from use, many experts say these 2 methods may be helpful. I remember doing this with one of my sisters children. It wasn't easy.

1) Choose to gradually remove the pacifier by allowing use only at nap and/or bedtime, instead of all day.

2) Psychologists recommend setting a date that the pacifiers will removed from the home. This date discussed with the child. Involve the child in the gathering of all pacifiers in the home. They can also be involved in decorating a box or baggie to "send them off " in. By choosing a date and allowing the child to be part of the process, it is thought you are allowing them to participate in a positive way. I have never done this so I don't know how it works, or if it works.

I wish you all the best. Should you have any questions, please send me an email at melissa@sweetwillowspirit.com. Have a great day!

Love and light,

Melissa

The material on this page is not meant to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. Since the actual use of this product by others is beyond our control, no expressed or implied guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken. Use at your own discretion. Any application of the recommendations is at the user’s risk. Sweet Willow Spirit, LLC disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of this information and assumes no responsibility for any actions taken. This should not be used in place of traditional therapies but solely as a complementary means for bringing well-being. The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of any oil or healing modality.

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The material on this entire website is not meant to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. Since the actual use of this information by others is beyond our control, no expressed or implied guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken. Use at your own discretion. Any application of the recommendations is at the user’s risk. Sweet Willow Spirit, LLC disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of this information and assumes no responsibility for any actions taken. This should not be used in place of traditional therapies but solely as a complementary means for bringing well-being.   The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of anything here.