If you’ve made the decision to offer your infant a pacifier — after four weeks of age when breastfeeding habits are firmly entrenched — many pediatricians and dentists recommend an orthodontic pacifier.
Orthodontic pacifiers are designed to prevent tooth misalignment and orthodontic issues later in life, as baby teeth come in and eventually give way to adult teeth. An orthodontic pacifier features a nipple that is flattened on the bottom and rounded at the top. They are specifically designed to support the shape of a baby’s developing palate and jaw. During sucking, they flatten in the baby’s mouth just like mother’s nipple to provide the most natural sucking action and reduce pressure on the gums and developing teeth.
Studies have shown that orthodontic pacifiers cause less open bite or overbite problems than traditional round pacifiers. The best line of defense against dental damage, however, is limiting pacifier time and taking away a pacifier after baby’s first year, even if it is an orthodontic pacifier.
Thumbs vs. pacifiers
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry prefers pacifiers to thumbs because the pacifier habit is easier to stop.
Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of pacifiers at nap time and bedtime through the first year of life to help prevent the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
However, pacifier use and thumbsucking beyond two to four years of age can have a negative effect on the shape of your child’s mouth and the way that teeth are lining up. If your child stops sucking on a pacifier, thumb, or fingers before permanent front teeth come in, there’s a good chance your child’s bite will correct itself.
The good news is that most children stop their sucking habits because of peer pressure. Even at 3 years old, children are subject to peer pressure. Your child might still use sucking in private as a way of going to sleep or calming down, but will eventually stop the habit on his or her own.
Tips for helping your child to stop pacifiers and thumbsucking
- Offer praise for not sucking.
- Make sure your child feels secure and comforted so he doesn’t resort to old habits.
- Have a dentist show what can happen to teeth if sucking isn’t stopped, including the possible use of braces.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, May 2020
- Orthodontic pacifiers are designed to prevent tooth misalignment and orthodontic issues later in life.
- Limit pacifiers after the first year.
- It’s easier for a child to stop pacifier use than to stop thumb sucking.
- Most children stop sucking habits because of peer pressure.