Baby pacifiers: Pros and cons

baby pacifiers

Should parents let their infant use a pacifier? According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), there are benefits as well as a downside to baby pacifiers.

On the positive side, pacifiers provide a source of comfort to infants. Pacifiers can also assist in reducing the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, according to the AGD. Because babies with pacifiers sleep less deeply than those who sleep without pacifiers, they can be aroused from a deep sleep that could result in the stopping of breathing.

The downside of pacifiers is the effect they can have on the growth and development of the teeth and mouth. Prolonged pacifier use can cause changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth, prevent proper growth of the mouth and create problems with tooth alignment. Parents who give their baby a pacifier should consider these points:

  • Restrict pacifier use to when the infant needs to fall asleep.
  • Look for a pacifier with ventilation holes in the shield, as they permit air passage. This is important if the pacifier accidentally becomes lodged in the child's throat.
  • Always clean the pacifier before giving it to a child.

Breaking the pacifier habit

The AGD recommends that children stop using pacifiers by age two. (Up until that age, any alignment problem with the teeth or the developing bone is usually corrected within six months after pacifier use is stopped.)

Breaking the habit is not always easy. Here are a few suggestions for helping a child wean from the pacifier:

  • Dip the pacifier in white vinegar.
  • Pierce the top of the pacifier or cut it shorter to reduce sucking satisfaction.
  • Leave it behind on a trip.

Always throw away a used pacifier; it is not sanitary for another child to use or to save.

Academy of General Dentistry.
American Dental Association.
Last updated: May 2008

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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