Many infants, who need supplemental sucking, in addition to the breast or bottle, are given a pacifier. Though, it can be a helpful and soothing device, and a sleep aid up to a certain age, prolonged usage can result in undesirable results. Pacifier use by an infant is perfectly normal and does not concern us until it turns into a habit after 9-months of age.
Prolonged pacifier use after 9 months can affect a child’s developing speech and swallowing ability. Pediatricians and speech experts often agree that 9-12 months is a good time to wean your child from the pacifier. This marks the beginning of an important speech development phase. If your child often has a pacifier in his mouth, he may be less likely to attempt to make sounds or practice talking. The pacifier may also distort the baby’s actual speech. “Sucking on a pacifier locks a child's mouth in an unnatural position, making it more difficult for him to develop his tongue and lip muscles normally”, says Patricia Hamaguchi, a speech-language pathologist from Cupertino, California, and author of Childhood, Speech, Language, and Listening Problems: What Every Parent Should Know. In some cases, using a pacifier frequently can cause the tongue to push forward between the teeth. This sets the stage for the development of a lisp when producing the s and z sounds.
Pediatric dentists, including Dr. Deborah Pilla and our dental staff at Park View Pediatric Dentistry are concerned that your child’s bite can be altered from the constant sucking of a pacifier after 9 months. This is our recommend age to start to wean the child from their pacifier. Simply stopping the habit may result in the teeth and jaw self-correcting.
Park View's Point of View
There are many pacifiers on the market today, and just because a pacifier says “orthodontic” does not mean it is good for your child’s teeth and jaw. We suggest using the Mam®. These pacifiers come in many sizes but we also suggest using the smallest available (Mini Mam®), and not increasing in size to encourage continued use. After awhile, this undersized pacifier will not be as comfortable and soothing to use and the child will give it up on their own.
Breaking the Pacifier Habit
We recognize that stopping a pacifier habit is easier said than done. Here are some helpful and proven tips:
• First, limit the pacifier to home use only. If you are already doing this, further limit the pacifier to bedtime. Ask for support from nannies, baby sitters and day care professionals.
• When your child is over 18 months old, agree to agree to something “in substitution” to your child’s pacifier that sounds positive to them—such as giving it to a new baby (friend or relative’s), throwing it away as reinforcement of becoming a “big boy or girl”, or suggest bringing them to the dentist to win
a special prize. Whatever works and sparks interest.
• When your child inevitably asks for the pacifier, simply say “remember we gave them to (fill in blank) “, and prepare yourself for about two days of cranky behavior and sleep disturbance.
We are aware that many children use a pacifier well into their toddler and even preschool years. For these special cases, the pacifier may serve as something that relieves stress and helps them adjust to new or challenging situations, like starting preschool or taking a trip. For these children some child psychologists recommend continued use until they develop other coping mechanisms. Therefore coping skills should be addressed and alternative coping aids should be introduced. Often this is done with the advice or assistance from a pediatrician or child psychologist. At Park View Pediatric Dentistry, we often confer with these other professionals to ensure that your child is receiving a complete, whole approach when it comes to their oral health.
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Park View Pediatric Dentistry