Pacifiers, they are life savers sometimes. We know the struggle Mom and Dad.
But let’s make sure we break the habit at the right time.
Dr. Lindley and Dr. Curtis did a short Q&A for us. Call us if you have any questions regarding your child’s pacifier habits.
Q: Why are they bad?
A: The developing facial features and mouths infants, babies, and toddlers can be greatly effected by forces placed on them and can be moved in undesirable ways. The forces pacifiers place on the mouth can be detrimental and may lead to the need for braces in the future.
Q: When to stop?
A: It is recommended by the AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) to stop by the age of 3. If a child is showing detrimental signs from the pacifier use before this age, we may want them to stop earlier.
Q: How to stop?
A: There are many creative ideas you can read about online from Paci Parties where the pacifier is released with balloons and Paci Fairies that come to take the pacifiers in exchange for a prize. There are more traditional routes such as giving it up cold turkey or clipping the tip. Children are all so different and parents should consider which option they think will work best for their child. The key is that we have to get the child to want to stop, only a child that desires to stop, will successfully stop. Praising and providing positive reinforcement for your child is an important part of helping them stop using the pacifier. You never want to punish your child or scold them for using the pacifier. Alternatively encouragement is the way to go.
Q: What happens if you do not stop?
A: We tend to see a greater orthodontic need where the top front teeth flare out, the lower front teeth tilt backwards, and the patient’s front teeth do not close but rather are open with space between them (an open bite). We can also see jaw changes occur such as cross-bites between the top and bottom jaw and the lower jaw being to far back. These potential side effects of pacifier use would require extensive, lengthy, and expensive orthodontics to correct.
Pacifiers, thumb sucking, and finger habits are normal for an infant and young child. Most infants will discontinue these habits naturally as they age. Most children naturally discontinue the habit between 2 to 4 years of age. For those children that hold on to the pacifier longer than desirable (3 years of age) we want to help the child wean off the pacifier so we can limit the side effects from prolonged pacifier use.
If you are able to wean your child off the pacifier it is important to watch the child closely to make sure they do not substitute their thumb in the pacifiers place. When faced with a choice between a thumb and a pacifier- always choose the pacifier! Give the pacifier back and give the child a little more time to decide they are ready to let go. Why? It is very difficult to take a thumb away from a child. Consequently in the weaning process we do not want a child to develop a thumb habit in place of a pacifier. Thumb habits can be more difficult to discontinue.
Anne Lindley, DDS, Ben Curtis, DDS, Chasidy Alvarez