My first baby LOVED his pacifier! My husband drove with a back-up in his car in case there was a situation. His pediatrician encouraged him using it for the first year...but then came his 2-year check-up. The nurse finished up with her part of the visit and turned back as she was leaving to get the doctor with a warning. "Don't let Dr. B see the binky! He will take it out his mouth and throw it away!" WHAT? No way! I took it away, which caused crying and my frustration to rise. Why take away something that is a comfort to him...especially at a doctor's visit? We got through the visit, but I was wondering, when do I really need to buckle down and ween him from the binky?
Thumbsucking or sucking on a pacifier is a natural reflex for babies. It makes them feel secure in a big big world! It can also soothe them and help them fall asleep. However, as time goes on, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also change the shape of the roof of the mouth.
Dr. Jones encourages parents to start weening the binky or thumb-sucking around age 2 and no later than age 3. The longer this habit continues, the more likely to form an "open bite" where the palate and upper front teeth are not in an optimal position and will require orthodontics to correct. Kids will often have difficulties with speech when the front teeth are not in the correct positions and may require speech therapy. Finally, if the palate (roof of the mouth) and the first part of the airway don't form correctly due to long term pacifier use or thumb sucking, it could result in problems with proper breathing/snoring/apnea related issues. The oral cavity has a very specific anatomy that is ideal for biting, chewing, swallowing, speaking and breathing. If the mouth and teeth aren't set up for success early on, it can result in a lifetime of health and wellness issues.
But HOW does one get their child to stop?! Here are our tips to stop thumb-sucking/pacifier use:
We did buckle-down and got him away from the binky at the end of the year. He was almost two and a half years old. How did we do it? Well, we told our son that Santa asked us to leave binkies for him to pick up so he could deliver them to the new babies. We also limited the use to only night-time or when he was especially needing some comfort. He asked for it less and less and eventually stopped altogether on his own!
Here he is showing off his new smile after pulling out his tooth at school!
If you are worried about your child's thumb-sucking/pacifier use, and need additional support, please be sure to give us a call, or let us know at your next dental visit!
Ali Jones, D.D.S. - Dentist