Pacifying toddlers can harm development of teeth

For fussy babies, a pacifier can calm and soothe. However, dental experts warn that once a child reaches the preschool years, a pacifier can become a habit that impedes the development of healthy teeth.

If a child continues using a pacifier past the age of 3, serious dental malformation can occur, says Tim Verwest, DMD, Pediatric Dentist. The most common malformation is an open space in the front teeth or an overbite in which the upper teeth protrude.

“Unlike sucking the thumb, using a pacifier is a learned response, so it‘s a little easier to unlearn the habit,” says Dr. Verwest.

Researchers say that many prolonged pacifier users become prolonged thumb-suckers after the pacifier is taken away, adding to a child‘s risk of adversely modifying the teeth‘s natural position.

In addition to moving and shifting teeth, the Academy of General Dentistry reports that pacifier users are more likely to suffer from acute middle ear infections.

At the very least, children who use pacifiers past their toddler years may eventually need braces, and that alone should alert parents to the potential for dental problems and expense.

“Some parents don‘t want to upset the child and don‘t want to see him or her cry,” Dr. Verwest says. “If you tell the parent that breaking the pacifier habit could prevent undue orthodontic costs down the road, that‘s also a financial incentive to consider.”



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