Dentist Insights: Pacifiers and Long-Term Oral Health

Does your baby use a pacifier? Or perhaps your toddler or preschooler still uses a pacifier. Pacifiers can be extremely helpful tools for soothing babies. But when should pacifier use stop? Are there long term effects of pacifier usage? Here’s what you need to know about pacifiers and oral health from an experienced pediatric dentist.

Benefits of Pacifiers

Pacifiers have a long list of benefits, which is why they are still commonly used for babies to this day.

  • Babies can sleep for longer stretches at night and take longer naps during the day.
  • Breastfeeding mothers can get longer breaks between feedings.
  • Pacifiers can soothe babies during travel in the car and on airplanes.
  • Pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • Pacifiers can soothe babies during vaccinations.

Drawbacks of Pacifiers

Pacifiers do have some drawbacks, and it is up to you whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs.


  • It can be difficult to stop pacifier use once it is started.
  • Babies may depend on pacifiers for sleep and have difficulty sleeping without it.
  • Pacifier use can cause long term oral health problems, such as improper development of the teeth and jaw.
  • Pacifiers may increase the risk and frequency of middle ear infections.
  • Pacifier use in infants may cause problems with breastfeeding, such as difficulty latching and fewer feedings that could affect weight gain.

When Should My Child Stop Using a Pacifier?

Pacifiers are most effective for babies under 6 months. However, most babies that get used to having a pacifier will continue to use one for longer. It is best to stop the use of a pacifier by the age of two. Discontinuing use on or before your child’s second birthday will greatly reduce the chances of long term oral health problems.


Can the Effects of Pacifier Use Be Reversed?

In some cases pacifier use past the age of two will result in malformation of the jaw and bite misalignment. Pacifiers often cause an open bite, which means there is a gap between the upper and lower front teeth when the child bites down. Once you discontinue pacifier use these issues may improve, but there is no guarantee that they will correct themselves.

In many cases orthodontic treatment will be required later in your child’s life to correct the problems caused by pacifier use. Some children may need early intervention around the age of 7 or 8. Others may not need treatment until adolescence, between the ages of 10 and 14. Most children will need some degree of orthodontic treatment whether or not they use a pacifier. But treatment may be shorter and less complex without the added effects of pacifier usage.

Making the Pacifier Choice

Choosing whether or not to give your baby a pacifier is a decision every parent must make. Consider the pros and cons and make the best choice for you and your family. But if you do decide to allow a pacifier during infancy, the sooner you discontinue use the better for your child’s long term oral health. Talk to a pediatric dentist to help you make an informed decision.

Kids and Teens Dental Place provides comprehensive pediatric dental services in Pearland and Houston, Texas. Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.