Dental benefits

Baby with pacifier Baby with pacifier Baby with pacifier

Two-word answers

Q:

Can using a pacifier cause dental problems?

A:

Yes, eventually.

Sucking on a pacifier or thumb helps young children feel calm, relaxed, safe, comfortable and secure. The action triggers a calming reflex that begins in the womb.

It’s recommended that your children suck on a pacifier instead of their thumb because it’s an easier habit to break. Research also shows that pacifiers can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

But using a pacifier or sucking on a thumb for too many years can lead to developmental problems for your children’s mouths and teeth. Their growing jaws begin to form around anything held in their mouths repeatedly.

These problems, often called “pacifier teeth,” may:

• Push children’s top front teeth forward so they no longer meet with bottom teeth

• Cause teeth to become crooked and create problems with biting

• Result in changes to the roof of the mouth, position of teeth and jaw alignment

 

Be sure to take your children to the dentist by age 1 to check on their development and bite. Preventive exams are 100% covered by most dental plans.

Lengthy pacifier use can also lead to speech impediments. It’s best to wean your children from a pacifier by the time they’re 2 years old, before you begin seeing effects on their developing teeth and mouths. More dental problems might surface if your children keep using a pacifier past their fourth birthday.

Here are some helpful tips for weaning: 

• Praise your children for not using a pacifier.

• Offer tooth-friendly rewards for pacifier-free days.

• Comfort them with hugs to help reduce anxiety.

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