Contrary to what many parents tell each other, pacifiers aren’t all bad. In fact, there are some pretty great benefits that come with allowing your child to use a pacifier. The trick to using a pacifier is knowing the right way to use one, as well as how to ween your child off of them at the right time.
Sucking on something is a natural source of comfort for most babies and rather than sucking on whatever they can get their hands on when they’re not feeding, a pacifier is a safer and more hygienic option. It can help them fall asleep, keep them calm when the visit the doctor, and medical research has shown that infants that use dummies are at a lower risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). This is because babies that use pacifiers when they fall asleep tend to sleep less deeply than those who don’t, which means that they can easily be woken up if they stop breathing while sleeping deeply.
Pacifiers can also prevent your child from sucking their thumb, which can be a more dangerous habit and one that is more difficult to break in later years. There are many people that develop a thumb-sucking habit in infancy that have carried it all the way into adulthood and their oral healthy has suffered considerably as a result.
Most parents are aware of the effect that a pacifier has on a child’s teeth if they suck on it excessively. While your child’s teeth are developing, continually sucking on a pacifier can actually change the shape of their mouth, causing their front teeth to rotate or to be forced upward, resulting in the formation of a hole in the front of their mouth even when they clench their teeth.
If pacifiers are improperly used, they can also introduce harmful bacteria to your child’s mouth and cause tooth decay. Some parents might dunk the pacifier nipple in a sugary drink or food to make it more enjoyable for their baby. However, these sugars that linger on the pacifier can stay in your child’s mouth and harm their still developing teeth. Other parents might clean off a pacifier by putting it in their own mouth, which can be equally as harmful. At the young age when children normally use pacifiers, they don’t have the same kind of bacteria in their mouths as adults do because they have a diet that mostly consists of either breastmilk or formula. So, when you put your own saliva on the pacifier, you are passing on harmful bacteria to your child that could cause tooth decay.
When used properly, pacifiers can benefit your child without harming their teeth. The first step to giving your child a pacifier should be to choose the right one. You should choose an orthodontic pacifier, which will prevent tooth misalignment, with a shield guard that is wider than your child’s mouth and has ventilation holes. Do not attach the pacifier to your child with a ribbon or chord, as this can come with the risk of strangulation.
Before placing a pacifier in your child’s mouth, clean and sterilise it thoroughly by placing it in boiling water for five minutes. After your child has used it or if they have dropped it, clean it in hot, soapy water. As soon as the pacifier nipple begins to look cracked, swollen or stained they should be thrown away.
Your child should have stopped using pacifiers by the age of 2. When it comes to weening your children off of pacifiers, a lot of praise and encouragement is advised. You can refer to your dentist if your child is having difficulty dropping the habit. Getting rid of the pacifiers can also be an opportunity to start teaching your child more about oral health and making their brushing routine more fun. Consider buying them a fun child’s electric toothbrush as a reward when they stop using their pacifier, possibly one that features a character or colour they like. Find one with soft bristles and a gentle oscillating action to keep their baby teeth clean and healthy. You can find such products in our best electric toothbrush options.
With care and attention, you can keep your child’s teeth healthy while also giving them the benefits of a pacifier.