Pacifiers: we love them and we hate them. Pacifiers can be the magic key to calm your child when they are screaming at the top of their lungs, but what can a pacifier do to your child’s oral health? Below, we explain a few of the pros and cons of pacifiers so that you can answer the important question: When should my child stop using a pacifier?

The Pros of Pacifiers

Finger and pacifier sucking are normal behaviors in toddlers and infants. When a pacifier is used correctly, it can heave great benefits for a child’s oral health and development. Here are some of the pros about pacifiers:

  • They can soothe your child
  • They can relieve pain
  • They improve development of muscles around the mouth
  • They decrease the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

The Cons of Pacifiers

While pacifiers are great to help a child relax and feel comforted, every parent knows there comes a day when a child will need to say bye-bye to the binky once and for all. Pacifiers cause developmental problems in the way your child’s teeth grow. Here are some pacifier cautions to be aware of:

  • Overuse of pacifiers will misshape the position of the teeth and the shape of the mouth.
  • They cause an increased risk of cavities in teeth, especially if the pacifier is not cleaned properly.
  • Pacifiers can lead to an increase of ear infections.

When Should my Child Stop Using a Pacifier?

The Academy of General Dentistry recommends weaning a child from a pacifier before their second birthday. Continued use of a pacifier can harm the growth and development of the roof of the mouth. Tooth alignment problems will start to occur as the pacifier restricts the teeth from growing correctly.

The process of weaning a child from the pacifier can be rough—we know! Consider beginning by limiting the amount of time your child is using a pacifier. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Use a pacifier to help an infant fall asleep.
  • Keep the pacifier clean and never place syrup or any type of food or substance on it. This can contaminate the pacifier and increase the risk of tooth decay.

Saying Bye-Bye to the Pacifier

Simply taking away the pacifiers is going to cause your child to become upset. If you aren’t prepared to handle a lot of screaming and temper tantrums, breaking the pacifier habit “cold turkey” can be hard on both parents and children. Consider some of these ideas as you help your child break the habit

  • Dip the pacifier in white vinegar.
  • Place the pacifier in a stuffed animal to show them the pacifier is safe.

Often, parents are concerned about permanent damage a pacifier may cause in their child’s mouth. As long as the pacifier habit stops before age 2, you can rest easy. Bone development normally corrects itself within 6 months after the child gives up the pacifier.

Every child is different, especially when it comes to quitting pacifier use and how you as a parent can tackle that challenge. We are here to help! If you have any questions about your child and pacifier usage, call our dental office at (801) 294-8880 to schedule an appointment. You can also schedule an appointment through our website and plan to come visit us. We are here to help you make the best decisions for your child’s oral health.

South Davis Pediatric Dentistry is a children's dental office in Bountiful Utah