The Untold Truth About Pacifiers

Pacifiers are tempting. The ability to stop crying on a whim and enable your child to self soothe is priceless to many mothers. However, most parents believe there are some serious cons to pacifier dependence, one of the biggest being teeth deformities. However easy it is to get a child to start taking a pacifier, it is doubly as hard to get them to stop, and more often than not they use pacifiers well into their teeth growing-in years.

While parents worry that using a pacifier is bad for baby’s teeth, but they generally have no effect on a child under 2 years of age. Past age 4 however, pacifiers can cause an overbite, open bite, or crossbite – problems that affect chewing, speech, and appearance, and often require orthodontics to correct.

The main orthodontic and dental problems babies can develop are:

  1. Anterior open bite—The most common of pacifier-related malocclusions, or imperfections in teeth positioning. This is when the front and bottom teeth are pushed outward (to make space for the nipple or thumb).
  2. High narrow palate—This is when the roof of the mouth is higher than normal and the airway is narrow, resulting in a smaller airway.
  3. Posterior crossbite—When the front teeth are an overbite, extending over the bottom teeth, but the molars are an underbite, meaning the bottom molars protrude further into the cheek then the top molars.
  4. Narrow intercuspal width of the maxillary arch—This is when the width between your top molars is narrower than it should be.

Pacifier use in younger babies can actually have a plus side however, as they may decrease the chance of cavities by keeping baby from using the bottle or breast for non-nutritive sucking. Babies who sleep with the bottle can develop “baby-bottle cavities” in all 16 or 20 of their teeth. While babies who are offered pacifiers for the first couple of years of their lives develop dependence on them, the babies who are dependent on sugary drinks from bottles to put them to sleep/ soothe (such as apple juice or other soft drinks) are predisposed to enormous cavities, abnormal teeth yellowing/ darkening, and weakened tooth roots.

The emergence of the orthodontic pacifier changed the dental cautions that have come attached to pacifiers for generations. Orthodontic pacifiers are designed to prevent tooth misalignment and orthodontic issues later in life, as baby teeth come in and eventually give way to adult teeth.

An orthodontic pacifier features a nipple that is flattened on the bottom and rounded at the top as they are specifically designed to support the shape of a baby’s developing palate and jaw. While the pacifier does not look abnormal to an untrained eye, the nipple is shaped extremely differently.

During sucking, they flatten in the baby’s mouth just like mother’s nipple to provide the most natural sucking action and reduce pressure on the gums and developing teeth. Mimicking the mothers’ nipple is also good for the baby’s nipple recognition as well.

Studies have shown that orthodontic pacifiers cause less open bite or overbite problems than traditional round pacifiers. The best line of defense against dental damage, however, is limiting pacifier time and taking away a pacifier after the baby’s first year, even if it is an orthodontic pacifier.

In general, as your baby grows, it is best to keep the pacifier use to a minimum. No matter how advanced the pacifier, having anything obstruct your child’s teeth growth will cause deformities.

Shoshi S.
Shoshi is a graduate from Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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