Pacifiers: Dental Issues and Recommendations
Should you panic if your child is approaching 2 and still using a pacifier?
"No," says Dr. Turner, "although it's easiest to wean your child between 6 and 12 months, up to age 2 it's not a big deal."
But, if the habit continues, pacifier use can eventually lead to dental problems involving the development of the upper and lower jaws. They can adversely affect how the teeth (including permanent ones) are spaced and come together. Long-term use may also result in a persistent tongue thrust that interferes with speech. Cavities may occur if the pacifier is dipped in a sweet like honey (which should never be given to infants under 1 year due to the dangers of botulism).
Most of these dental problems (except for the cavities) will probably reverse without intervention if pacifier use ends by age 4 or 5, according to Dr. Hayes. Nevertheless, if a child is still using a pacifier at 2, Hayes offers the following recommendations:
- Limit pacifier use to bedtime.
- Tell your child no new pacifiers will be purchased - when the old ones are worn out or lost, that's it.
- Encourage age appropriate self-calming skills and behaviors.
- Visit a dentist every four to six months (instead of annually) when use continues beyond age 2-1/2 .
Most children are likely to give up pacifiers on their own between 2 and 4. If you're reluctant to force your child to give it up, keep in mind that after 10 months to a year, a pacifier isn't really needed anymore.
Is stopping pacifier use cold turkey right for you and your child? Find out!
See also: 10 Tips for Pacifier Safety
Joan Sosin is a freelance writer who specializes in health and legal issues.