Do Pacifiers Affect Baby's Teeth?

Do Pacifiers Affect Baby's Teeth?
Posted on 09/21/2018
The sucking instinct is a natural reflex in humans, and few images are more comforting than that of an infant sucking on a thumb, finger, or pacifier. But as a parent, you might be wondering: can using a pacifier hurt your baby's teeth? As your dedicated pediatric dentist in Amarillo, we at Children's Dentistry of Amarillo wanted to shed some light on the subject and explain the impact of pacifier use on baby teeth. 

How Do Pacifiers Affect a Child's Teeth?

There's nothing wrong with pacifiers or thumb sucking: for infants, sucking on a thumb, finger, or a clean pacifier is a perfectly normal way to calm down. The problems start to occur when pacifier use goes on for too long. 

If a child continues sucking on a thumb or pacifier past about age 4, it can start to affect the development of their teeth. Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can cause an orthodontic malocclusion, or bad bite, called an openbite to form. Openbite occurs when the upper and lower front teeth slant forward, preventing the teeth from meeting when the mouth closes. An openbite can impair chewing, bite function, and speech, and treating one requires extensive orthodontic treatment later in life. 

So when should you stop giving your child a pacifier? Most kids will stop on their own, but if they don't, you'll want to start to break the habit around age 4. This process shouldn't be painful, traumatic, or high-stress: too much pressure to break the habit does more harm than good. After all, kids use a pacifier to calm down. Adding stress to the situation only makes them want it more. 

Instead, be gentle in the process and focus on positive reinforcement when your child doesn't use it. Explain to them the advantages of letting go of the habit and that if they want to be a "big kid," they'll need to stop eventually. If it's still difficult, we can recommend painless treatment methods and orthodontic appliances that make it easy to gently, easily break the habit. 

Contact Your Amarillo Kid's Dentist

Thumb sucking is an innocent, harmless habit for an infant, but it's important to know the dangers if it continues for too long. We hope you found this blog helpful, and if you still have questions or want help with helping your child stop using a pacifier, we're always here to help. Feel free to reach out to us at our contact page with any questions or to schedule an appointment for you and your child. We look forward to hearing from you, and we wish you luck in helping your child let go of using a pacifier or sucking a thumb!