Do Pacifiers Cause Dental Problems in Babies?

There is much debate regarding the use of pacifiers leading to development of crooked teeth; yet there is little evidence to prove it. However, parents find it one of the hardest habits to break, to wean their child off a pacifier.

Many children find comfort in sucking fingers, hands, thumbs or pacifiers. And often parents worry if sucking can create a problem in the baby’s teeth development. If your child loves pacifier, then read this blog to get clarity on – ‘if pacifiers could be an actual problem and ruin your child’s teeth.’

Sucking is Normal in Babies… They Develop It Even Before They Are Born

One of the natural reflexes for babies is sucking. Sucking is a normal phenomenon in growing babies, may be for couple of years, as they find the habit comforting. This is because babies start to practice it even before they are born.

Research has found that babies actually find comfort in sucking even after they no longer need food from breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

Do Pacifiers Cause Dental Problems in Babies

Frequent and Long Term Sucking May Have Some Side Effects

In the first few years, sucking on the thumb or pacifier probably won’t create any difference in the baby’s denture or mouth. However, frequent and long term sucking may be a big problem, especially when the milk teeth or temporary teeth come out. So the problem doesn’t lie in pacifiers, the problem is actually sucking, even thumb or fist for that matter.

Some of the common repercussions of long term sucking are;

  • Top two teeth would develop slanting out
  • Bottom two teeth would slant in
  • The roof of the mouth would become narrower from side to side
  • Misaligned upper and lower jaws
  • Tooth decay or severe lacerations in the mouth

However contrary to the belief sucking pacifiers also have some positive implications in babies

  • Babies with pacifiers are more relaxed and comfortable.
  • Pacifiers also reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is easier to arouse a baby from deep slumber, an occurrence that could result in stopped breathing. Babies who suck on pacifiers do not have deep sleep in comparison to babies who are not offered pacifiers.

When Should Children Stop Using Pacifiers?

Parents should be aware of the negatives pacifiers cause in babies. Foreliminating prolonged oral health problems, children should be stopped from sucking their fingers before they turn two. Until the age of two, any alignment problem with the teeth or developing bone that supports the teeth is usually corrected within 6 months from the time pacifier is stopped.

However, once the alignment has taken complete shape and bones fully developed, prolonged use of pacifiers or thumb sucking will cause problems with the proper alignment of jaws and teeth, changes in the shape of the roof of mouth and growth of the bones.

Is there an Association between Prolonged Use of Pacifiers and Otitis Media?

Otitis Media is the medical term used for acute middle ear infection.

Academy of General Dentistry’s spokesperson, Maria Smith, explains this queer relationship by saying, “Continuous 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. Transmission of bacteria in secretions would lead to middle ear infections.”

Maria Smith, who is the DDS of the Academy, goes on to add, “The bottom line is that if your child is continuously battling middle ear infections, you may have an alternative to surgery or antibiotics to stop this problem.” And the alternative is removing the habit of sucking thumb or pacifier.

Tips To Make Babies Stop Using Pacifiers

Breaking the pacifier habit is always not easy. However, there are several methods that parents can follow;

  • Make pacifier distasteful by dipping it in vinegar or bittergourd water
  • Cut short the nipple of the pacifier to make the sucking unsatisfactory
  • Dip your babies thumb in vinegar or lemon juice
  • Tie your babies thumb with the index finger
  • Leave the pacifier behind when travelling

Some of the other recommendations are;

  • Don’t give pacifiers when it’s time for the infants to sleep or when they are falling asleep
  • Don’t apply honey or sugar water on pacifiers and offer to a crying or fussy baby
  • Devotedly use positive force to encourage your child from using pacifiers
  • Don’t buy pacifiers that are low grade in quality. Look for pacifiers that have ventilation holes inside for permitting air passage
  • Don’t tie the pacifier with a chord around your child’s neck. This may accidently strangle the child.
  • Buy pacifiers that have rings and symmetrical nipples.


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