The Legend of the Pacifier

It’s a story many parents tell to their children’s dentist. My child won’t stop using the pacifier, what do I do? The story is usually followed by many questions. What effect does the pacifier have on my child’s teeth? When does my child definitely have to stop using the pacifier? Will my child need braces because they used the pacifier? The hardest question of all, (but to me the most fun and interesting) is how do I get my child to stop using the pacifier?

It seems silly to have to write a blog series on a piece of plastic that children put in their mouths for comfort, but it’s a real issue that many parents face.

As a pediatric dentist, I get these questions every single day – so many questions – that I will need to make The Legend of the Pacifier a 3-part series. Part one will discuss how children become attached to the pacifier, part two will discuss how the pacifier affects your child’s teeth, and part three (my personal favorite) will give parents suggestions on how help your child stop using the pacifier.

Part I: How the Pacifier love begins

When babies are first born, they thrive on the act of “suckling;” whether it’s with the mom breastfeeding, on a bottle, on a finger (parent or their own), or a pacifier. For many parents, the pacifier becomes an instrument to help calm the child when they are crying, hold them over until it is time for them to eat, or to help the child fall asleep.

Is the pacifier bad to use on an infant?

No. It is not the end of the world if you find that your infant likes to use the pacifier. In fact, many children find comfort in having the pacifier in their mouths. And as all parents know, a calm child equals a calm parent!

What do I need to know about the pacifier?

A pacifier can also pass cavity-causing germs to your infant’s mouth.

The pacifier can carry germs. I am sure everyone has seen the cleaning products that have come out specifically for pacifiers – any of them will work to fight off germs. What many people don’t understand is that the pacifier can also pass cavity-causing germs to your infant’s mouth (yes, even before they have teeth!). You can avoid this transmission of cavity-causing bacteria in your infant’s mouth by not cleaning the pacifier with your own mouth or any other person’s mouth (sibling, caregiver, grandparents, etc).

It may be calming for your child to have the pacifier now, but understand it may cause problems with the placement of your child’s teeth down the road. In Part Two of this series, I will discuss what affect the pacifier can have on your child’s teeth once they start appearing in the mouth.

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What to do next?

Parents should also understand that at some point in time, they will have to help their child get rid of this wonderful piece of plastic. Herein lies the problem for many parents. In Part Three of this series, I will discuss creative ways to help your child get rid of the pacifier.

Please note: I do not guarantee any of these ideas, I have just found many of my patients have responded positively to them. In fact, many of these ideas came from the parents of my patients – so thank you for sharing your own successful ideas with our readers!

(CC Photo Credit)

Elizabeth Cook Miller, D.D.S., M.S. is a pediatric dentist at Atkins, Maestrello, Miller & Associates Pediatric Dentistry in Richmond, VA. She is a new mother, active runner and her favorite movie is "Finding Nemo".

2 Comments

  • Amber

    January 6, 2013, 8:32 pm

    Fun reading the strings. My son was so attached to his pacifier that it started to become a real problem. We could not go anywhere without making sure that we had a pacifier in hand. My friend absolutely raved about the bye bye binky method so we decided to give it a try (she found it at http://www.bye-bye-binky.com ). All I can say is WOW, worked beautifully for my son with no tantrums, not even one! Super easy and four days later he had no interest in his binky. We really were amazed… highly recommended… Amber

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