Pacifier Pros and Cons

For fussy babies, a pacifier can calm and soothe. However, dental experts warn that once a child reaches preschool years, a pacifier can hinder the development of healthy teeth1. So what’s the best course of action? Consider the pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision about when to use…and when to break the habit.

The Pros

Using a pacifier can help to: 

  • Comfort infants, helping them fall asleep faster or soothe their anxiety.
  • Ease discomfort during plane flights by creating a swallowing motion that can help to relieve pressure on baby’s tiny ears.
  • Possibly reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)2. Babies with pacifiers sleep lighter than those who sleep without, and may arouse from deep sleep should they stop breathing.

The Cons

Pacifier use beyond a child’s toddler years can affect the growth and development of your child’s teeth and mouth, including: 

  • Over time, there could be changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth, preventing proper growth and creating problems with tooth alignment that can lead to bite problems and years of orthodontia.
  • Research indicates that many prolonged pacifier users become prolonged thumb-suckers after the pacifier is taken away, further increasing the risk of bone-growth and tooth-position abnormalities1
  • The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) reports that pacifier users are more likely to suffer from acute middle ear infections.

Tips for Safe Pacifier Use

If you decide to use a pacifier, consider following these tips:

  • Restrict pacifier use to when your baby needs to fall asleep. 
  • Look for a pacifier with ventilation holes in the shield, as they permit airflow. This is important if the pacifier accidentally becomes lodged in the child's throat. 
  • Always clean the pacifier before giving it to a child . 

Break the Pacifier Habit

The AGD recommends children stop using pacifiers by age two3. The earlier you break the pacifier habit, the greater your chances of preventing undue orthodontic costs down the road. 

Here are a few tips to help your child give up the pacifier:

  • Dip the pacifier in white vinegar.
  • Pierce the top of the pacifier, or cut it shorter to reduce sucking satisfaction. 
  • Leave it behind on a trip.
  • Trade in the pacifier for sippy cups, which promote the development of hand-eye coordination and help break the sucking habit.

Sources: 

1 American Academy of Family Physicians. Retrieved October 23, 2012 from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0415/p681.html.

2 The changing concept of sudden infant death syndrome: Diagnostic coding shifts, controversies regarding the sleeping environment, and new variables to consider in reducing risk. Pediatrics. 2005;116:1245

3 Academy of General Dentistry. Pacifiers Have Negative and Positive Effects. Retrieved October 26, 2012 from: http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=p&iid=296&aid=1180.

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.