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Are Pacifiers Pacifying?

dentist chair for wisdom teeth removal

The following is the opinion of Wade Newman DDS, founder of Eagle Valley Family Dentistry in Bellefonte, PA about the use of pacifiers and thumb suckling in children. The Binkie, Thumb, Finger, Pencil or any other device put into the mouth to soothe is a Pacifier. In my book, the Binkie is an orthotic device found in stores, thumb and finger are really any digit of the hand or foot and a Pencil is anything else used to suckle on. The soothing that comes from the Pacifier is a natural coping method that started within the womb. If this particular soothing process progresses past the age of 2, harmful skeletal growth patterns and adult tooth issues can occur. Let’s discuss the Good and the Bad of using a Pacifier.

The good:

The soothing effects of the suckling reflexes are common in newborns. Even in the womb, some newborns suck their thumbs or fingers. Suckling has a soothing effect as well as helping out with nourishment. So, what are some of the good aspects of utilizing a Pacifier?

  • Momentary relief after a painful stimulus like shots at the Doctor’s office.

  • Calmness for some babies (and then parents!) between feedings and to settle unknown reasons for fussiness.

  • Help a child fall asleep. Hence, help the parent get some sleep!

  • Babies can’t equalize their ears during changes in altitude when you are traveling, to ease earaches caused by air pressure changes suckling on a Pacifier may help.

  • Suckling on a Pacifier may lessen the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

  • Binkies and Pencils can be thrown away; thumb suckling is a much harder habit to break.

The natural suckling need usually fades after about 6 months of age. Many kids, and parents, continue using a Pacifier after the natural suckling need wanes for continued soothing and comfort. There is a wide range of opinions about when to eliminate the Pacifier, with 23 years of seeing kids in the dental chair, the ones using a Pacifier after the age of 2 generally have more dental issues than those who don’t.

The bad:

Time to consider the drawbacks:

  • Many parents will confirm being woke by blood-curdling screams from their child only to find out they “lost” their Binkie during the night. Reliance on a Pacifier can become an issue.

  • The increase of occurrence of middle ear infections is higher after the age of 6 months for those that use a Pacifier.

  • Long-term Pacifier use can cause issues with teeth and skeletal growth.

  • Pacifier use can cause some issues with breastfeeding. Sometimes the child gets used to a certain shape for suckling and the breast nipple isn’t as appealing.

Most kids stop using a Pacifier on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. They develop the ability to speak, they are usually preoccupied with getting into all of your cupboards, and when they start school, they want to blend in with others so they no longer feel the need for the Pacifier.

I’m recommending weaning the child from the Pacifier around age 2. If a child is still suckling on a pacifier at the age of 4, parents need to seek ways to assist their child in breaking the habit to avoid harming adult tooth eruption and skeletal bone growth. The Doctors and staff at Eagle Valley Family Dentistry in Bellefonte, PA can help you if you are having problems in this endeavor.

This blog is the opinion of Wade Newman DDS, founder of Eagle Valley Family Dentistry.


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