The Legend of the Pacifier: Part 2

Note: This is Part 2 in a 3-part series on pacifiers, an ongoing series to answer parents’ questions about pacifiers. Part 1 explored why and how kids fall in love with their passies

Now that we understand why children become attached to the pacifier, let’s try to understand how the pacifier can affect your child long-term.

Since we are a pediatric dentist office, of course we are concerned with how the pacifier affects your child’s teeth long-term. Parents need to be aware of the negative effects of pacifier sucking on a child’s oral health.

Age Concerns

We recommend children wean from the pacifier around age 2.

The main concern is the age of the child using the pacifier. We recommend children wean from the pacifier around age 2. Up until age two, any alignment problem with the teeth or the developing bone is usually corrected within a 6-month period after pacifier use is stopped.

Ensuring Proper Development

Prolonged pacifier use (and other oral habits such as thumb sucking) can cause problems with proper growth of the mouth, alignment of teeth, and changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth.

How exactly do the teeth shift with the pacifier? As you can see in the image above, the upper teeth tend to move up and out while the lower teeth move down (into the jaw) and out creating an “open bite” or a space between the upper and lower teeth. If the child continues to use the pacifier past age two, the chances of permanent changes to the child’s jaw and teeth increase. These changes to the teeth and jaw can be corrected with orthodontics (braces), when the child is older, but is a very difficult problem to correct.

Associations With Other Conditions

There has also been shown to be an association between pacifier use and middle ear infections (otitis media) – especially in children who are in daycare centers. Continuous sucking on a pacifier can cause the auditory tubes to become abnormally open, which allows secretions from the throat to seep into the middle ear leading to middle ear infections. So, if your child is continuously battling middle ear infections and using a pacifier, you may want to consider removing the pacifier to prevent the need for antibiotics and surgery.

Next Up: How To Break The Habit!

So now that we know the affects the pacifier can have on your child, how do you go about breaking the habit? Stay tuned for successful habit-breaking ideas from our very own Richmond parents!

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".

One Comment

  • Andrea

    April 12, 2012, 4:01 pm

    Thumbuddy To Love makes a great product called the Binky Fairy that helps wean children from their pacifier gently and effectively. It even won a PTPA award. Google Thumbuddy To Love or get it on Amazon.

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