How Do Pacifiers Affect Dental Development

Most babies love pacifiers. They are comforting, soothing, and can even provide pain relief from some types of medical problems. So, you may believe they are harmless, but they aren’t. If they are used too long they can cause what is commonly referred to as “pacifier teeth.”  Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent your child from getting “pacifier teeth.”

What is “Pacifier Teeth”?

Pacifier teeth is the term used for dental problems that developed as a result of the overuse of a pacifier. The problems that develop can range from slightly minor issues such as shifted or crooked teeth to extreme problems such as protruding front teeth or problems with jaw alignment.

Some of the common dental problems associated with prolonged use of a pacifier include:

  • Crooked, shifted, or uneven teeth
  • Improperly aligned jaws that result in problems with a child’s bite
  • Front teeth that stick outwards or protrude too far forward- which can lead to trauma of the teeth
  • Changes to the overall shape of the roof of the mouth
  • Advanced tooth decay

While using a pacifier doesn’t automatically cause dental problems, it is the overuse or prolonged use of a pacifier that cause the problems. Dental problems occur from pacifier use because a child’s teeth are constantly growing and developing from the time they are born. If the pacifier is used after tooth eruption the teeth, jaw, and mouth will grow around it.

How to Get Rid of the Pacifier

Even though dental problems can occur as a result of pacifier use, it doesn’t mean it has to there are things you can do to prevent dental problems from occurring as a result of using a pacifier.Some ways to prevent dental problems from using a pacifier include:

  • Teaching your child self-soothing techniques that don’t involve a pacifier – this helps your child learn how to self-soothe themselves without relying on the pacifier
  • Using a pacifier for short periods of time only – don’t leave your child sucking on a pacifier for hours on end.
  • Slowly start to wean your child away from the pacifier around 6 to 12 months
  • Don’t put sweet liquids on the pacifier – not only will this encourage your child to use the pacifier more than they should, but it can cause cavities and tooth decay to develop in the mouth

Pacifier vs. Thumbsucking

It is normal for children to explore their world by placing everything in his/her mouth, including a pacifier or a thumb up to age 3. Ideally, all habits should cease by 12 months, which seems easier with the pacifier because you can take it away. Some suggest that a pacifier habit is easier to break than a thumb habit, because you can throw a pacifier away. Positive reinforcement works best, such as success calendars (Ask for our activity sheet), or ignore your child while he/she is sucking and only respond when the sucking stops. For pacifiers, a helpful trick is to wean your child by progressively cutting off small pieces of the tip each week until the entire nipple is gone.

Prolonged oral habits may cause your child’s upper front baby teeth to flare out and give the appearance of an “overbite”. If your child continues to have an oral habit past age 6, the permanent teeth will likely become affected, and you should discuss a plan to help your child stop the habit with the dentist.

Remember to Schedule an Appointment to See a Pediatric Dentist

Worried about dental problems as a result of pacifier use? Make sure to schedule an appointment for your child with a pediatric dentist. A pediatric dentist will monitor your child’s oral health. If any problems are suspected, your pediatric dentist will be able to quickly provide effective treatment so the problem can be corrected.  Your child’s first visit to a pediatric dentist should occur either when their first tooth starts to come in or their first birthday whichever occurs first.  Feel free to call Sunshine Smiles to schedule an appointment.