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Children and Pacifiers

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Dr Ramzi Matar (Winter Park Dentistry):

Hello, welcome to this episode of our podcast. Today we’re talking about a common question for children, for baby teeth, and it is the old classic pacifier. I get a lot of mothers that ask me when do we get rid of the pacifier, does it cause problems, does it make your teeth crooked, when should I get them off the pacifier? I’m going to give you some recommendations, this is springtime 2015. I’m going to go through a recent article I read that was interesting that talks about the pros and cons of the pacifier.

I learned something that I did not know. One of the pros that I find very interesting about a pacifier is that apparently, is that it decreases the incident of SIDS, which is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The reason which I found fascinating is that they don’t sleep as well, children apparently don’t sleep as deeply, with a pacifier in their mouth, which I frankly had no idea. What that does is that it makes children less prone to have SIDS, which apparently is when they fall so deeply asleep that they stop breathing. So if a child is not sleeping as deeply, and they have a pacifier in their mouth, they would wake up before they fall into such a deep sleep. That’s kind of interesting, I’ve never heard that before, but that was information that I felt was important.

Another thing, probably most common reason children like pacifiers, it is a source of comfort for infants, and so that’s important for a mother or father trying to put their child to sleep, if they want to comfort them. Those are two main pros, but you have a few cons. First, let me digress and tell the recommendation is for children to stop pacifier usage around the age of 2. There was a podcast here with a pediatric dentist, whom I have a lot of my parents’ children go see him, and he has different opinion on how to stop, there’s different ways they can stop the habit. You can watch that podcast if you like.

Some of the cons, is it can cause some malalignment, and I’m also referring to thumb sucking, any kind of nonnutritive sucking is the term. It can cause some alignment issue with the teeth. It can also cause the roof of some of the teeth in the child’s mouth as they push their thumb on the roof of their mouth, it can cause a deeper groove in the roof of their mouth, which can cause narrowing of the arch and again, different alignment issues. If a child stops using a pacifier before the age 2, most of these problems will self-correct within six months, meaning the growth of the child would reverse what sort of damages were done.

Another con, and this is something else I learned with this article, was that if children use pacifiers, the sucking motion can cause the ear tubes to be abnormally open. I suppose it is because of the negative pressure from the sucking, it can cause the auditory tubes to be abnormally open, which increases the risk for middle ear infections, so there is something else I did not know.

So let’s talk about what are some suggested ways to stop children, if you’re a mother or father and you’re trying to have your child stop doing it. You can dip the pacifier in vinegar, seems kind of old-fashioned to me but I guess you dip it in vinegar, the child tastes it and doesn’t like vinegar and associates the bad taste with the pacifier, makes sense. One way I have heard a lot of positive reactions from, is to slowly cut the pacifier, meaning you cut a few millimeters off the pacifier, so the pacifier becomes less and less appealing, because if it becomes a quarter, a half of the pacifier, two-thirds of the pacifier, whatever, as it gets shorter, it becomes less enjoyable for the child, eventually of course it becomes no pacifier so you don’t have it.

Here’s some other tips that were suggested about pacifiers: use it only during sleep time, if possible, and do not buy a pacifier that does not have vent holds in the shield. So what happens is that if a child is to swallow this pacifier, and the shield does not have any vent holds, it is much more difficult to remove it… I know this is a difficult subject, but it is much more difficult, or impossible, to remove it from the child’s throat. What happens is that suction cups inside the throat and you can pull and pull and it’s not going to come out. If you have holes in the shield, that does not happen, you can create that suction cup and you can pull it about, so it’s really helpful to prevent choking. I’ve seen a lot pacifiers that have a string so that they don’t lose it if they drop it, that was not suggested because of choking hazard, but I guess that depends on how long the cord is, so what this article recommended is to find one with a ring. so if you’re a parent, you have a child and had some questions about pacifiers, I hope this podcast helps. Thank you.