How Does a Pacifier Affect My Baby’s Teeth?

Almost all children suck on their fingers or a pacifier.  And if you have one of those kids that can’t seem to calm down for anything but their binky, it’s hard to imagine not passing it over when they start to get fussy.

Sucking on fingers or a pacifier is a way for kids to comfort themselves, reduce anxiety, and feel secure. This habit is perfectly acceptable for young kids.  The only real harm comes when sucking on a pacifier or fingers lasts for a long period of time.

Kids are okay to suck on a pacifier or thumb while they have their baby teeth, but the habit should ideally be completely broken before their permanent teeth begin to erupt.  Typically, their permanent teeth will begin to push through at age 6, but parents should start to eliminate the sucking habit at age 4.  A pediatric dentist can closely monitor the development of your child’s teeth and jaw to make sure they’re developing properly.

Doctors and dentists agree that the earlier the pacifier is taken away, the easier it is stop the habit.  If a child uses a pacifier when they’re permanent teeth are coming it, it could cause the front teeth to be pushed forward.  This sets the stage for future dental problems and could cause the development of a lisp.

Rules for the Pacifier:

  • Let your baby decide if they want a pacifier or not.  Some will take it right away, and some won’t take it at all.  If they won’t take it, don’t force it.
  • Offer the pacifier between feedings.  Don’t use it to neglect your baby or put off feeding time.
  • Try giving the binky before a nap.  Some research shows that sucking on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
  • Never tie the pacifier around your baby’s neck.  They could strangle themselves if the cord gets stuck.
  • NEVER clean a pacifier by putting in your mouth. Cavities are contagious, and you could unknowingly be passing on the cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth.
  • Don’t dip the pacifier in juice or sugar before giving it to your child.  The sugar will cause decay in their teeth.