Pacifiers and Your Baby’s Teeth

Our Dental Blog | Child Dentistry, Dental Tips | 11.23.2020

Did you know that babies can develop a habit of sucking their thumbs or fingers before they’re even born?

One of human’s natural reflexes, sucking is an involuntary response to touch that is essential for sustaining human life. Generally able to be triggered by touching the roof of your child’s mouth, causing a rhythmic squeeze between their tongue and palate.

However, while sucking is a natural response, it can quickly become a habit that your child uses to soothe themselves with.

As you are most likely aware, many parents will choose to soothe their fussy babies with a pacifier, however, should pacifiers be used in this manner? Are there any downsides to constant pacifier use?

Well, to any repeated motion, there is always risk and damage that can occur, even in something as simple as sucking on a pacifier. So, let’s go through the benefits and risks you may not be aware of when it comes to using pacifiers.

Why Do We Use Pacifiers?

Newborns aren’t perfect. It may come as a surprise to some, but not all bodily actions are there from the start, such as monitoring your own hunger or thirst.

A crying infant only knows the comfort that comes from latching onto parents (known as rooting and is helpful for babies to stay in position during breastfeeding), grasping, and sucking. Each one of these reflexes develops during pregnancy and will dwindle during the 4 – 6 months after birth.

However, during this time, your baby is going to cry.

Like, A LOT.

And that is normal, but not every peep from your newborn is going to be for hunger. Sometimes they just want to be soothed with the best ways they know how.

This is where pacifiers come in.

The first resemblance of a pacifier was patented in 1901 by Christian W. Meinecke. A disk-shaped shield with a rubber nipple on one side. Christian would dub his invention a “Baby Comforter”.

Over the years, this little object would be simplified with minor adaptations, such as a ring for easier use, and eventually, the entire list of materials was changed, such as the switch to silicone from Indian rubber.

Despite the decades in between now and the pacifier’s invention, there has been little to no real development of the product since the 1950s. Nonetheless, we think this states the efficacy of the product more than anything!

The in’s and Out’s of Pacifiers

As any new parents know, there is no replacement for a quick solution to your infant’s needs. It is why the pacifier is so ubiquitously used amongst parents across cultures. But, while there are serious benefits of pacifier use, there are also some drawbacks.

Let’s go through to help you determine if pacifier use is for your child.

Pros of Pacifiers

  • Soothe Your Baby and Reduce Crying

As mentioned before, the act of sucking is a natural reflex. One that is reinforced through positive reinforcement of food. Understandably, your infant will become responsive to a pacifier much like Pavlov’s famous conditioning experiments.

  • Encourages Breastfeeding During Postpartum Depression

Mothers at high risk for PPD often have will experience agitation when dealing with a fussy baby, and that is alright. A pacifier will come in use here as it allows for the baby to self-soothe, giving Mom some much-needed peace in between feedings.

  • Distracts from Stresses

You aren’t the only one that has to do with stress. Your newborn has entered a world full of bright lights, rough textures, and strange noises. During their exploration into this fascinating world, they are going to come across situations that they don’t enjoy – such as doctor check-ups and vaccinations. During these difficult situations, it often helps to distract your infant with their favourite pacifier.

Cons of Pacifiers

  • Dental Implications

You can’t join our articles without hearing a message from the Dentists! Long-term pacifier use can affect the shape of your teeth and mouth. At a young age, your jaw and gum tissues are fairly malleable when compared to an adult mouth. Therefore, extended pacifier use can create dental problems such as overbite, crossbite, and crooked teeth.

  • Dependence

Much like every human on this planet, babies can get addicted to stimuli. However, this does not stop at sugar or treats; pacifier use can also become a crutch for your baby’s comfort. Pacifier use becomes an issue when your child has no other means of self-comfort. To avoid dependence, some experts recommend for parents to start weaning their child from their pacifier use around 1 year of age.

Want More Health and Dental Tips?

Every parent wants what is best for their child, and that is what we try to offer through our informative blogs.

Often, there just isn’t enough time spent at the Dentist to get through all the healthy suggestions our Specialists have to offer, and it is here where we take the time to go through diets, toothbrush suggestions, staying active, and so much more!

Feel free to peruse the rest of our library of practical tips for parents and children by following the link here!

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