Making Peace With Pacifiers
Pediatric dentists and physicians agree that using a pacifier is completely acceptable and understandable during your baby’s first six months. Pacifiers may even provide young infants with health advantages. After six months, pacifiers can lead to ear infections and serious dental problems.
Advantages of Pacifiers for Young Infants
Sucking is a natural reflex that produces a calming and comforting effect upon an infant. That’s exactly why pacifiers are so popular. Among the advantages of pacifiers:
Sucking on a pacifier undoubtedly helps calm a baby
Pacifiers may prevent anxiety and lessen distress
Pacifiers can help reduce infants’ crying during trauma at home or during certain medical procedures.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that giving a pacifier to an infant older than one to six months at bedtime can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS.) Researchers speculate that pacifiers may keep babies from rolling onto their faces or may keep their tongues forward and away from their airways.
Reasons to stop pacifier use
As a children’s dentist, I recommend that your infant’s use of a pacifier should start being reduced in the first six months. It is much easier to stop an infant’s use of a pacifier than a two or three year-old child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics it’s important to wean your infant off pacifiers because:
Ear infections (otitis) in infants has been linked to the overuse of a pacifier after the age of six months.
Continued pacifier use after six months is associated with speech and language problems.
Pacifiers also have a major impact on the development of teeth, jaws and oral musculature. Pacifier use after six months has detrimental impact on the shape of the jaw and muscles of biting, and the emergence of erupting teeth.
Prolonged use of a pacifier will contribute to crooked teeth and jaw abnormalities. These malocclusions (undesirable relative positioning of the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed) will require extensive orthodontic intervention.
The most common malocclusion seen in children who suck pacifiers after six months is an “open bite.” In that case, there is an obvious gap between the upper front teeth and lower front teeth when the jaw is closed
Less common adverse effects due to constant sucking include “posterior crossbite,” a less than desirable relationship of the back molars.
When the upper teeth are pushed outward over the lower teeth “buck teeth” result.
You might substitute a small blanket or a stuffed animal for the pacifier.