When To Take Away the Pacifier

baby in stroller with pacifier

Alpharetta, GA – If your child is over the age of two and still using a pacifier, it’s time to start thinking about taking it away.

“For newborns and infants, pacifiers can serve an important purpose,” says Dr. Nanna Ariaban, an Alpharetta children’s dentist. “They can soothe a child by helping the child fulfill his or her natural sucking reflex. And studies show pacifiers may be able to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. But if your child uses one for too long, you risk him doing serious damage to his mouth.”

Sucking is a natural reflex that babies develop while still in the womb.

During the first year and a half of your child’s life, sucking on a pacifier will not cause long-term damage. But frequent, continued sucking past that can cause irreversible damage unless treated by an orthodontist. Problems that can arise include:

  • Top front teeth that slant out
  • Bottom teeth that tilt in
  • Misaligned jaws
  • Misshapen roof of the mouth

“The most common problem we see with extended pacifier use is a space in the front teeth, or an overbite,” says Dr. Nanna. “Children who use pacifiers past their toddler years are more likely to need braces and other dental work.”

But how do you break the habit?
Knowing there is a valid reason to stop your child’s pacifier use is one thing, but actually creating a plan to do it can be hard. Children become dependent on it, and it can be hard for the parent to take away out of fear it will make their child sad.

“If your child is old enough, the best thing to do is to talk about it and create a plan together,” says Dr. Nanna. “You can create a fun countdown to the day the pacifier will be removed, and have some sort of treat for the child for giving up the pacifier.”

Some parents find it easier to have their child quit the habit cold turkey. Perhaps they leave the pacifiers behind on a trip or encourage the child to leave their pacifiers under their pillow for the tooth fairy to take in exchange for a small trinket.

Other parents may find it is extremely hard to stop the pacifier habit, so they can take small steps to discourage the child from sucking on it. Parents can safely snip the end of the pacifier – this will make the pacifier less satisfying to suck on, so the child will eventually stop. Other parents may find putting something that tastes bad, such as white vinegar, on the end of the pacifier will help discourage the child.

“It’s important to give your child positive reinforcement,” says Dr. Nanna. “Praise her when she leaves the pacifier at home, but never scold her when she does use it. If your child tends to suck on a pacifier when he is scared, tired or anxious, find other ways to help your child cope with those feelings so you can wean away the pacifier.”

Your Pediatric Dentist in Roswell can also play an important role in helping your child stop using a pacifier. Dr. Nanna and her staff are always happy to speak with children about what can happen to their teeth if they keep using a pacifier, and offer encouragement to help them stop the habit.

“We want your child to have a healthy, beautiful smile,” says Dr. Nanna. “We are always happy to help you by encouraging positive habits and helping your children understand the best way to care for their teeth.”

If your child is over the age of 18 months and still using a pacifier, it’s time to break the habit before too much damage is done.

© 2019 Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry.  Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry in Alpharetta, GA, is credited as sole source. 

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