Pacifier Habits

What are the dental changes that occur because of prolonged pacifier use? Learn more about it and how you can eliminate it.

Questions about pacifier use and potential dental problems are very common. Pacifiers can be calming and soothing to the baby. They are also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for use during bedtime for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) prevention. However, what are the effects of long-term pacifier use on baby’s teeth and jaws?

Dental changes which occur due to long-term pacifier habits are very similar to changes created by thumb habits. Although, most dental changes can be avoided if the long-term pacifier use is eliminated after the first year of life. Anterior openbite (no contact between the anterior teeth) and maxillary constriction (constriction of the upper jaw) occur regularly in children who suck pacifiers for an extended period of time during and after tooth eruption. Foreword movement of the upper front teeth may not be as pronounced as that accompanying a digit habit. Manufacturers have developed pacifiers that they claim are more like a mother’s nipple and not as deleterious to the dentition as a thumb or conventional pacifier. Research has not confirmed these statements.

Pacifier habits appear to end earlier than digit habits. Over 90 % were reported ended before 5 years of age and 100% by age 8 (Halle and Haavikko, 1974). Pacifier habits theoretically are easier to stop than a thumb or finger sucking habit because the pacifier can be discontinued gradually or completely withdrawn with discussion and explanation to the child. This type of approach is obviously not possible with digit habit, which makes a difference in the degree of patient compliance required to eliminate either habit. In a few cases, the child may stop the pacifier habit and then start sucking a digit. Elimination of the subsequent finger habit may become necessary.

References:

Halle A, Haavikko K: Prevalence of earlier sucking habits revealed by anamnestic data and their consequences for occlusion at the age of eleven. Proc Finn Dent Soc 70:191-196, 1974

Pinkham JR: Oral Habits. Pediatric Dentistry- Infancy Through Adolescence 393-401, 1999