Your infant is crying. Within minutes you are desperate to soothe your howling baby. So you resort to providing the one thing your child seems to respond to: a pacifier. This is a wonderful tool for your infant, but once your child has reached the age of twelve months you should have selected a pediatric dentist and scheduled an appointment to discuss caring for your child’s oral health (which includes pacifier use).
This early appointment serves many uses. An early dental exam provides the caregiver with a snapshot of your child’s current dental health.
This meeting introduces the child to the dental office experience and, with regular follow-up visits, will allow the child to become comfortable with the sights, sounds, and smells often experienced in this setting. Imagine the anxiety experienced if the child’s first dental visit is due to a toothache or other dental problem.
This first visit is also the perfect opportunity to ask questions about what is needed to help you and your child maintain great dental health, such as when is tooth brushing introduced; do children need to floss; is a pacifier OK or is it doing harm? While the internet provides a wealth of information, hearing the advice from your pediatric dentist will reinforce what you may have read or disproved the information.
Brushing and flossing are standard practices your child should learn at a very early age, and using a pacifier beyond 18 to 24 months should be discouraged. Sometimes when the pacifier habit is broken, the child will find a substitute (usually fingers and/or thumb).
Understanding what problems may be incurred by prolonged use of a pacifier may encourage the parents to work at controlling usage. As your child grows, the jaw, teeth, and palate are also growing and developing. Regular sucking can impact the formation of these areas during a very critical growing period that can result in protruding upper front teeth or an improperly formed palate.
Toddlers can also develop problems with the inner ear due to consistent sucking on a pacifier.
Breaking the pacifier habit can be difficult so start out by limiting the time of use (maybe just at bedtime). Adding a bitter flavor (such as vinegar) may make using it less appealing. For some children, breaking the pacifier habit is not difficult at all.