You might have heard the term “pacifier teeth” before but aren’t quite sure what it means. Are pacifiers safe for babies? Do pacifiers mess up your teeth?
The short answer is that pacifiers are safe for babies – when used properly. You can ensure your child doesn’t develop pacifier teeth by understanding a few important facts about proper pacifier use.
The Right Age Range to Avoid Pacifier Teeth
One of the most important factors determining whether your child will develop pacifier teeth is the age at which they stop using their pacifier. Many parents are unclear on the right age, and some allow pacifier use to continue for too long.
Because every child is different, there isn’t always a clear cut-off point. Generally, children past the age of two shouldn’t be using a pacifier anymore if they want to avoid pacifier teeth. You can slowly decrease your child’s pacifier use between 12 months and 24 months to make the transition easier.
Developmental Issues Associated with Pacifier Teeth
Do pacifiers mess up your teeth? They certainly can lead to a variety of dental issues that both you and your child would rather avoid. Improper pacifier use could lead to your child needing dental treatments that they could have avoided.
Misalignment is one of the most serious issues in affected pacifier teeth. Having a pacifier in their mouth for extended periods can create resistance when their baby teeth come in.
Your child’s smile could develop crossbite, where the upper and lower teeth don’t sit together properly, or open bite, where the front teeth slant outward. Make no mistake, these types of issues are a serious concern, even though it’s only their baby teeth.
Misalignment in the baby teeth can cause issues when the adult teeth start to come in. There may not be enough room when they erupt, causing them to become crowded and shifting them out of place. Your child will need orthodontic treatment to deal with these issues.
Long-term pacifier use can also affect the shape of the palate, the roof of your child’s mouth. The palate can become narrower, which can impact your child’s bite and the joint that opens and closes the jaw. Early orthodontic interventions can help resolve this issue, but it’s best avoided altogether.
Should You Avoid Pacifier Use for Your Child Altogether?
No, pacifiers can still be used when used properly. They’re perfectly safe and can play an important role during your infant’s first two years. Pacifiers provide several key benefits that your child can enjoy through proper pacifier use.
Pacifiers are also commonly referred to as soothers and for a good reason. Using a pacifier is soothing to your child and lets them relax. Just as importantly, they’re a type of soothing that doesn’t require a parent’s active intervention, giving you a moment to relax as well.
Weaning is also made much easier by pacifier use. More manageable weaning for babies makes it more manageable for parents. For newborn babies, you should discuss pacifier use with your doctor, as introducing a pacifier too early can make it more difficult to establish a nursing routine.
Handling Pacifier Use the Right Way
With the benefits of pacifier use, it would be a shame if parents avoided it due to excessive fear of dental issues. However, the risk of dental issues related to pacifier use is very real. Parents can follow a few simple rules to ensure their child’s health and comfort.
First, stopping pacifier use at an appropriate age is the most important rule to follow. Stopping around the age of two is generally recommended, and any pacifier use at three or four is a serious cause for concern.
You should also make sure that children aren’t sharing pacifiers. While bacteria are present in everybody’s mouths, those bacteria aren’t all the same. Swapping pacifiers back and forth introduces new bacteria that can grow in greater numbers, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
There’s an outdated practice that some people might still hear about today, where parents would dip their children’s pacifiers in juice or another sugary substance. This should always be avoided.
Putting anything sugary on a pacifier leads to that sugar staying in contact with teeth for an extended period of time. This sugar provides plenty of food for bacteria, which then leads to cavities. The same is true for children who use a bottle as a substitute for a pacifier or older children who slowly drink from a sippy cup for extended periods.
Make sure you choose the right size pacifier as well. Using the correct size ensures that your child’s pacifier isn’t so large that it creates an increased risk of dental issues and that the shield is large enough that your baby can’t fit the whole thing in their mouth.
What Happens if My Child Develops Pacifier Teeth?
Many issues can develop due to extended or improper pacifier use, but there are just as many pediatric dental treatments to help your child. While prevention is always the best course of action, parents should know that their children’s dentist can provide effective treatment options for affected pacifier teeth.
If your child has developed tooth decay or cavities due to pacifier use, routine dental fillings are often more than enough to resolve the issue. Don’t ignore tooth decay just because it’s only baby teeth. Your child can still be negatively affected, and the decay can spread to cause serious infection.
If your child has developed misaligned teeth or other orthodontic issues, early orthodontic interventions can help. Space maintainers, palatal expanders, and other options can ensure healthy development.
What You Can Do for Your Child’s Oral Health and Development
If you’re concerned about your child’s pacifier use, you should reach out to your dentist. San Diego Children’s Dentistry can help you throughout your child’s development and provide routine preventive care and other dental treatments your child needs. You can schedule an appointment for your child today to get started.