Call it what you will – “pacifier,” “paci,” “binky,” “moopy,” “nuk,” “fuh-fuh” – this amazing little invention has held parents’ sanity in place for generations.
Babies are born with several reflexes that help them survive and one of them is sucking. This makes sense! They need to learn how to guzzle down mama’s milk (or formula) since they’re no longer connected to a continual stream of nourishment.
Today we’ve got tons of adorable little pacifier models – some that even make baby look like he has a mustache or a full set of teeth! But the concept is nothing new. Way back in the day, they used bone, coral, and twisted rags dipped in honey to give to baby to soothe and satisfy the need to suck. Luckily, modern technology affords us less dangerous options.
It’s True: Pacifiers Do Affect Baby’s Teeth
The number one problem with pacifiers is they can cause dental malocclusion – a fancy term meaning that teeth aren’t in the right position for one’s mouth to close normally. Essentially, developing teeth shift to accommodate the presence of a pacifier in the mouth.
Your little one might develop an anterior open bite (where her front teeth stick out a little bit), a crossbite (where some teeth align properly but others don’t), an unusually narrower palate, or a wider-than-normal upper arch. If you’ve heard of “pacifier teeth” – this is what that’s referring to.
And That’s Not All
Any type of malocclusion can increase your child’s risk of developing cavities. When teeth are misaligned, they are harder to keep clean. Daily plaque removal is the key to keeping cavities at bay.
Malocclusion can also affect your child’s nutrition, speech development, and overall facial structure as they grow.
A second way pacifiers can affect your child’s teeth is that they can transfer unwelcome germs. Of course, anything that goes in baby’s mouth can carry microorganisms that may or may not cause an infection. However, if parents try to “clean” their baby’s pacifier that has fallen on the ground by sticking it in their own mouths before returning to baby, this can colonize baby’s mouth with the bacteria that cause cavities. (Sorry, parents!)
It’s a good idea to properly clean your child’s pacifiers on a frequent basis – especially if you have pets or keep outside shoes on while inside the house.
Yes, pacifiers affect your child’s teeth. But most experts say that if you curb the habit by the age of 2, any dental malocclusion will resolve itself as the child grows. The problem with pacifiers is with prolonged pacifier use, especially as your child gets closer to their adult teeth coming in.
The best thing you can do for your little one’s oral health is help them maintain a twice-daily hygiene ritual, and bring them to routine dental visits, beginning after their first tooth has erupted. Your dentist will be able to spot any problems early on and advise you on how to best care for your little one.