Babies have a natural reflex called sucking and one of the best ways for them to satisfy it safely is by using a pacifier. As a mom, however, it’s only natural to worry about its safety, particularly with all the stories saying that pacifiers are bad for teeth.
Now, remember that not everything you read on the internet or even hear from other moms are true. This is why we’ve taken a look at this issue and here is everything you need to know.
Why Do Babies Suck?
Before we get to the answer, it is first important to understand why babies suck.
They do it on their thumbs, toys, and when provided, on their pacifiers. It’s a natural reflex for infants as soon as they come out of your womb.
Babies start to develop this and studies have shown that they have learned to suck before they are even born. It’s a normal part of their development and it brings a certain comfort to little ones as they grow bigger.
In fact, it becomes a source of comfort to growing children even as they are weaned from breastfeeding and feeding on bottles. Children grow up and would continue sucking on their fingers. It’s only natural to worry if this habit can cause problems in your child’s development.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is normal and you should not prevent a child from sucking because it can create problems emotionally and mentally.
The Negative Effects of Using a Pacifier
It’s perfectly normal and even necessary for babies to suck on their fingers and pacifiers. This, however, doesn’t mean that it’s completely good for babies.
Below are some of the most common negative effects of pacifiers.
Changes in baby’s mouth shape.
In the immediate instance, there really is nothing to worry about when allowing your child to suck on his pacifier. There is, however, some long-term effects physically. This includes the shape of your child’s mouth and teeth alignment.
As babies grow, their jaws and mouths would take the shape of what is held repeatedly inside them. If you overuse a pacifier, it could affect the development of their teeth in the same as thumb sucking would.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry or AAPD, a baby’s front teeth could tip forward over time and may become crooked. Your child may also experience problems with their bite.
Misaligned teeth and jaws.
As mentioned, there really is no immediate effect on sucking on pacifiers during a baby’s first years of development. It will not cause any damage to their mouths or teeth. However, after their baby teeth start falling out, there may be unwanted effects on their teeth if they continue sucking.
Several things could happen including the front teeth slanting out and the bottom front teeth tilting in. It’s also possible for the upper and lower jaws to become misaligned. Another possibility is for the roof of their mouths to become narrower on the sides.
The Positive Effects of Pacifiers
We now know the negative effects that could occur if a child uses a pacifier for too long. But what are some positive effects of sucking them?
Below are some of the most common ones.
Reduces the incidence of SIDS.
One of the most important positive effects of using pacifiers is that it reduces the instances of SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome. A simple explanation for this is their depth of sleep. Babies who use pacifiers do not sleep as deeply as those who don’t.
When they suck on their pacifiers, the child can be roused from a very deep sleep which is the common cause of SIDS. Babies who fall too deeply in sleep can experience a stopping in their breaths.
Provides a source of comfort.
Because sucking is a natural reflex, babies feel a level of comfort when they suck on pacifiers. That is one good reason why they calm down almost instantly when they are agitated.
How to Avoid Teeth Problems When Using Pacifiers
Given the positive effects of pacifiers to babies, it’s not really a wise decision to stop them from using it. There are, however, are things you can do to avoid the problems mentioned above
Choose shapes that promote proper teeth development.
The great thing about today’s technology is that we continue to find ways to make things possible while eliminating their bad effects. A lot of pacifiers now are designed in a specific shape so that they won’t affect your child’s teeth development.
Choose pacifiers with slightly slanted nipples so that they fit nicely in your child’s mouth and would not cause their front teeth to be forced forward. The traditional pacifier design could cause this to happen because it is too round and too big for their mouths.
Limit or stop pacifier use at the age of two.
It’s best to start limiting your child’s use of pacifiers at the age of two if you cannot completely stop it yet. At this point, they will have found other ways to soothe themselves other than sucking so it’s safe to do so.
They will have other outlets and ways to comfort themselves when agitated. It’s best to start them practicing these skills without the pacifier. As mentioned, it is the long-term use that could have negative effects.
Pacifiers Are Bad for Teeth: True or Not?
Given the above information, we can safely conclude that pacifiers are not really bad for your baby’s teeth. This is as long as you don’t overuse them and know when to make them stop using them.
There are positive effects of using pacifiers so it’s not a good decision to make babies stop using them, especially in the early stages. Pacifiers are bad for teeth only when not used properly.
Now, if you’re still unsure about letting your kid suck on a pacifier, it’s best to consult your baby’s pediatrician so you can be properly guided as to how you can start and stop. He may even give you tips to minimize the negative effects.