This is a common question I have faced over the years as a dentist. Young parents often have the following concerns:
- Should I give a pacifier to my crying child?
- For how long can my child use the pacifier?
- Will it affect his/her teeth?
- Will the affected teeth correct itself?
- Will it affect the shape of the jaws?
Pacifiers can be very soothing for a small child, especially a colicky or cranky baby. There are certain benefits of using a pacifier for a small baby if certain guidelines are followed:
- Restrict the usage only up to 6 months and not beyond and definitely not beyond the age of 2.
- Always clean and sterilise the pacifier before giving it to a baby.
- Select the correct size and shape.
The main benefit of its usage is a reflex soothing for a child and there are certain studies which quote that pacifiers can prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
But, prolonged pacifier use is associated with serial dental problems like:
- It can harm the developing dentition causing various malalignments like anterior open bite wherein the front teeth do not close fully, posterior crossbite, etc.
- It can also cause narrowing of the roof of the mouth resulting in a narrow or collapsed arch.
- Excessive plaque deposits on the teeth.
Other than the above after a certain period of time pacifiers tend to an emotional soother for the child wherein the child uses it to emotionally soothe themselves. Once, this occurs it becomes very tough to break this habit.
Hence, once the child turns 5-6 months old, it is strongly advisable to break the pacifier habit. There are various ways of doing this such as:
- Dipping it in a bitter solution like iron drops.
- Leaving it behind when travelling.
- Cutting the top of the pacifier or making it shorter in order to reduce the suckling satisfaction for the baby.
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