Toddler Pacifiers Habits No Cause for Alarm

Despite recent findings that toddlers who use pacifiers or suck their thumbs are likely to have misaligned baby teeth in preschool, parents shouldn't be unduly alarmed, says Paul Reggiardo, D.D.S., past president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

A study published in the December 2004 issue of Archives of Disease in Childhood found that nearly nine out of 10 preschoolers with an open bite had sucked a pacifier or thumb after age 1. But about 95 percent of those problems will resolve on their own once the habit is stopped, Reggiardo says.

There is no need, he says, to take away a child's pacifier at age 2 as researchers recommended. Parents generally need not worry about pacifier or thumb sucking until the child turns 5.

Reggiardo suggests that parents establish a relationship with a dentist who routinely treats children, beginning when their child is 12 months old. The dentist can then let parents know whether or not their child's habit poses a problem. "That reassurance can take a lot of pressure off the parents, and an awful lot of pressure off the kids," he says.

Don't set deadlines for giving up the habit, Reggiardo warns. "These tend to be self-defeating, and employed prematurely." Instead, cheer your child on with positive reinforcement, and seek help from your dentist if the habit is still there by age 6.

Christina Elston is a health writer and editor for Dominion Parenting Media and Parenthood.com.

© Parenthood.com, used with permission.

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