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Sucking on a pacifier is one of the hardest habits to break and can require a great deal of coaxing. Many parents struggle when trying to wean their child off of a pacifier. And while there is much debate regarding the use of pacifiers, studies show that there is evidence to indicate that there are both pros and cons.

One positive effect is that they assist in reducing the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies who use a pacifier don’t sleep as deeply as those who sleep without one. Pacifier sucking makes it possible for the infant to be aroused from a deep sleep that could result in the stopping of breathing. Pacifiers also increase sucking satisfaction and provide a source of comfort.

However, parents should also be aware of the negative effects of pacifiers on an infant’s oral health. Children should stop using pacifiers by age 2. Up until that time, any alignment problems with the teeth or the developing bone are usually corrected within a 6-month period after pacifier use is stopped.

Prolonged pacifier use and thumb sucking can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth, alignment of the teeth and changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth.

There is also an association between pacifier use and acute middle ear infections.

Constant 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. So if your child is continuously battling middle ear infections, you may have an alternative to surgery or antibiotics.

Breaking the pacifier habit is not always easy, and there are several methods parents can use such as dipping it in white vinegar to make it distasteful, piercing it or cutting it shorter to reduce sucking satisfaction, leaving it behind on a trip or using the “cold turkey” method.

Pacifier tips and recommendations:

  • Pacifier use should be limited to the time when the infant is falling asleep.
  • Choose a pacifier with ventilation holes in the shield, as they permit air passage.
  • A symmetrical nipple permits the pacifier to remain in the correct sucking position.
  • Dispose of the pacifier after use – it is not sanitary.

Don’t put your child’s dental health at risk – if you have questions regarding your child’s use of a pacifier and the effect it can have on their teeth, call our office today to schedule an appointment. They’ll thank you later!

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