Since babies are born with a natural inclination to suck on objects, pacifiers can be very useful to help calm and soothe a fussy baby. A recent survey found that up to 84% of Canadian infants are given a pacifier at least once.
Despite their popularity, pacifiers remain controversial, and parents are often left with questions about their safety. Let’s take a closer look at pacifiers, recommendations for their safe use and their potential for harm.
What are some general recommendations for pacifier use?
Some studies show pacifier use decreases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The Canadian Pediatric Society recognizes pacifier use as a personal choice for parents and should not be routinely discouraged by health care providers.
Pacifiers should not be used in place of feedings. Make sure your baby isn’t hungry before offering a pacifier.
Breastfeeding should be established and going well before a pacifier is offered.
Regularly check pacifiers for any tears or cracks and throw out any damaged ones. Do not let your child chew on their pacifier as it can damage it and lead to choking.
Can pacifier use lead to dental problems?
The answer to this is yes, but usually only with prolonged or misuse. If misused, pacifiers can change the shape of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth.
Here are some recommendations to prevent dental issues from pacifier use:
The Canadian Dental Association prefers the use of pacifiers over thumb-sucking. Parents have control over how and when pacifiers are used but do not have this control over thumb-sucking. Thumb-sucking is often a harder habit to break and can lead to the same dental issues as prolonged pacifier use.
Never dip a pacifier in honey or any kind of sweetener. This puts the child at a higher risk of dental cavities. Parents should also not clean off a pacifier in their own mouths, which can lead to the transfer of cavity-causing bacteria to their child.
Limit the amount of time your child uses their pacifier. Try to reserve it for comfort and sleep only.
Try to start weaning your child from pacifiers by the age of two. After the age of four is when dental issues from pacifier use are most often seen.
Parents can be reassured that if used correctly and for the appropriate amount of time, pacifiers will not harm their child’s teeth. Children should begin seeing the dentist by the age of one and continue with regular dental exams throughout childhood. Your dentist will be able to monitor your child for any adverse dental effects from either pacifier use or thumb-sucking.