Many parents give their babies pacifiers to help soothe them when they cry or fuss. While using pacifiers is okay in the early stages of your baby’s life, long-term pacifier use can lead to dental problems. As your baby develops, their jaw will grow around anything that’s held in their mouth for prolonged periods of time. Babies who use pacifiers past infancy can experience dental problems, such as front teeth that slant forward or bite problems.
In order to prevent these problems and provide your child with optimal infant oral care, parents simply need to break their child of their pacifier habit at an appropriate age. Check out our top tips on how to wean your baby from the pacifier and when to do it.
Timing Is Everything
If your baby is young enough, their pacifier habit may not be anything to worry about. In fact, if your baby is 6 months or younger, you should let them use a pacifier if they like them. Pacifiers actually help decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Since the risk of SIDS significantly decreases when your child reaches 6 months of age, that’s when you can start thinking about how to wean your baby from the pacifier.
In terms of long-term dental repercussions, your baby can safely use a pacifier up to age 2. Any problems with their teeth that develop before then will be corrected within 6 months of giving up the pacifier.
However, if your child uses a pacifier past age 2, it can lead to slanting teeth. Pacifier use past age 4 will start to impact their adult teeth, and those problems will have to be corrected with orthodontics. According to the American Dental Association, symptoms of pacifier teeth can include the following:
- crooked teeth
- bite problems
- changes in tooth position
- changes in jaw alignment
- front teeth that don’t meet when the mouth is closed
- changes on the roof of the mouth
Weaning your baby from their pacifier at the appropriate age will prevent any of these issues from developing.
Try Quitting Cold Turkey
Some experts believe that stopping pacifier use all at once is the best method of how to wean your baby from the pacifier. While the first few days of going “cold turkey” will be difficult, it will break the attachment. However, some parents find it difficult to deny their child the comfort of the pacifier. If you’re reluctant to use this method, there are gentler approaches that you can try.
Offer Alternative Comforts
Ultimately, the pacifier is a comfort item. If you plan to take away this comfort item from your baby, consider offering alternative comfort items that will soothe them without the potential damage to their teeth. You can rock your baby, sing to them, or give them gentle massages to help calm them down. For older babies, try replacing the pacifier with a soft blanket or stuffed animal.
Cut Down Pacifier Time Gradually
Instead of taking away the pacifier all at once, you can reduce your baby’s pacifier use gradually. First, only offer the pacifier at naptime and bedtime. Then, stop offering the pacifier at naptime. If your baby fusses, find other ways to comfort them. Once they are adjusted to napping without the pacifier, you can start weaning it from them at bedtime. You might start by taking it away after they fall asleep before not giving it to them entirely.
Make Pacifiers Unappealing
If your child is truly reluctant to give up their pacifiers, try making them unappealing. You can make them taste bad by coating the tip in lemon juice or vinegar. The bad taste may help break your baby’s attachment to them, since they won’t seek out something foul tasting. You can also try cutting the tip of the pacifier, which takes away the sucking sensation.
Give Them Away
If your child is a little bit older, it offers more alternatives of how to wean your baby from the pacifier. Toddlers sometimes respond well to a logical reason to give up their pacifiers. Explain to your child that they are a big kid now, and some other baby out there needs the pacifiers more than they do. Together, you can gather up all of the pacifier and put them in a box for this new baby. You can bring the box to your pediatric dentist, being sure to praise your child for being so grown up. You can tell your child that the pediatric dentist will give the pacifiers out to new babies. Of course, for sanitary reasons, we’ll dispose of them for you.
Stage a Visit from the Binky Fairy
Like the Tooth Fairy, the Binky Fairy is a mystical creature who comes in the night. Instead of replacing lost teeth with money, the Binky Fairy will replace pacifiers with a new toy. Like the previous tip, this one works best if your baby is a bit older. Tell them that the Binky Fairy will come when they’re ready to give up their pacifiers, and she’ll replace them with a surprise. When your child is ready, have them gather all of their pacifiers and put them in a box for the Binky Fairy. During the night, that’s your cue to replace the old pacifiers with a brand new toy for your child to enjoy.
Schedule Your Pediatric Dental Appointment
Figuring out how to wean your baby from their pacifier can be challenging for both you and your child. However, the risks to your child’s dental health are too great to ignore. If your child uses a pacifier, make sure you help them break the habit before age 2.
We have multiple locations throughout the Greater Las Vegas region, and accept most forms of dental insurance as well as Medicaid. If you’re concerned that your baby’s pacifier use is having an effect on their teeth, make an appointment with Children’s Dentistry today. Our experienced staff can assess your baby’s teeth and help figure out how to correct any potential problems.