Pacifiers help soothe fussy babies, but many parents are concerned about the effects of these long-term soothing devices. Although pacifiers can indeed contribute to tooth decay and affect the growth of children’s mouths and teeth, these problems only occur when they’re used incorrectly. When it comes to pacifiers and teeth, rest assured your baby can enjoy his pacifier without it interfering with early oral health.

What are the benefits of a pacifier?

It’s natural for infants and toddlers to calm themselves by suckling, and pacifiers provide a convenient comforter. As a matter of fact, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggests using a pacifier is preferable to thumb-sucking. Toddlers need to stop excessive sucking to prevent future problems in mouth and teeth development, and it’s easier to wean a young child from a pacifier than a thumb-sucking habit. Pacifiers can also decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

What can pacifiers do to teeth?

It’s important not to overlook the fact that, if used incorrectly, pacifiers can do some damage. The bacteria that cause tooth decay don’t occur naturally in a child’s mouth. This bacteria is passed on by caregivers, sometimes by way of a pacifier. Therefore, putting a pacifier in your mouth before giving it to your baby introduces the possibility of bacteria being exchanged and possibly causing tooth decay. Parents can also end up encouraging tooth decay by dipping the pacifier in a sugary liquid, such as honey or corn syrup, before giving it to their baby. Keep in mind that prolonged use can create crooked teeth, bite problems, upper front teeth that tip forward, changes in jaw alignment and imperfect tooth position.

How do can you choose the right pacifier?

The range of pacifiers available in stores can be confusing. There are two kinds of pacifier nipples: orthodontic and non-orthodontic. Orthodontic designs are slim and flat, simulating the shape of the mother’s nipple in the baby’s mouth, whereas non-orthodontic pacifiers have a round, bulb tip. The University of Rochester Medical Center advises parents to buy one-piece pacifiers with no moving parts, built-in gadgets or liquid interiors. Pacifiers should also have sealed (rather than open) bases, and the nipple should be made of silicon – which harbors fewer germs and is smoother than latex or soft plastic.

Is there a way to use pacifiers responsibly?

Introduce a pacifier after breastfeeding is established, typically three to four weeks following birth. Clean it thoroughly before use and before replacing it in your baby’s mouth if he spits it out. As your child develops this soothing habit, consider the following:

  • Don’t attach a pacifier to anything else using a string, cord, ribbon or other attachment.
  • Always use a pacifier that has a shield wider than your baby’s mouth.
  • Discard pacifiers that have become discolored, cracked, swollen or sticky.
  • Never leave your baby unattended with a pacifier in his mouth.
  • Talk to your dentist or pediatrician if your baby hasn’t given it up by the age of three.

Caring for infant teeth isn’t only about correct pacifier use. You should also clean their teeth twice a day using toothpaste formulated for children under two, and start flossing when the teeth are finally touching one another. Being smart about pacifiers and teeth when looking after your infant’s oral health leads to a contently growing baby with a beautiful smile.

Do you have any questions about pacifiers? Call Westermeier Martin Dental care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.