Should I Let My Toddler Use A Pacifier?
When your child uses a pacifier as an infant, it can be hard to know just when the right time is to stop them from using it as they grow. Especially when a child is very attached to his or her binky for sleeping or to cope with new or frightening situations, the thought of taking it away can be terrifying. This blog will explain why pacifier use during the toddler years can be problematic and may help comfort you when taking the steps to transition your child away from using it.
Prolonged use of pacifiers can affect the shape of the oral cavity. The most common effect is an open bite, or a gap between the upper and lower front teeth when the mouth is closed. Another common effect is a crossbite, when the upper back teeth are tucked inside the lower back teeth due to the constant sucking habit. Another risk of pacifier use on oral development is that it can lead to a significant horizontal projection of the upper teeth beyond the lower teeth. Pacifier use beyond the age of 5 can delay the front baby teeth from falling out and delay emergence of adult teeth.
Pacifier Use and Other Problems
Studies show that prolonged pacifier use is associated with more ear infections. One study showed that children who did not use pacifiers had 33% lower incidence of ear infections. Pacifier use may also contribute to speech and language problems. Sucking on a pacifier locks a child’s mouth into an unnatural position, making it more difficult to develop tongue and lip muscles. In addition, as your child is learning to speak, a pacifier tends to limit the opportunity to talk and distort his speech by causing the tongue to push forward, often resulting in a lisp when the child forms the s and z sounds.
While there is no evidence that pacifier use causes permanent damage to baby teeth (they usually shift back into place in a few months after the child stops using it) it can have long term effects on adult teeth, which usually come in around 4 to 6 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to limit the use of pacifiers to night time only after infancy, but to consider banishing it all together sooner rather than later as a pacifier habit can be hard to break. When the time comes, many parents choose to do it gradually, eliminating day time use first and then phasing it out of the night time routine. Using a newborn size, which is smaller and softer, will also help reduce the impact of pacifier use.
Talk with us about your child’s use of pacifiers and let us help you determine the right time and way to support their oral health and development. While it can be a difficult transition, it just may prevent future problems for that little dear one you love so very much.
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