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How Old Is Too Old for a Child to Be Using a Pacifier?

‚ÄčThe Beckhams have been in the news recently, no surprise there, but the somewhat surprising aspect of their recent public appearance involved their 4 year old daughter, sucking on a pacifier.

This has caused a stir in the media, and people have had a lot to say about it.

Dentists usually warn parents that the use of a soother for too long may harm speech. A child with a pacifier will be unable to communicate or explore effectively, and this is a well-researched and documented fact.

Babies are born with a strong sucking reflex. Some babies suck their thumbs or fingers in the womb. The act of sucking soothes baby, and a pacifier can thus provide a temporary soothing effect whilst parents can get on with their routines, and not have to constantly watch over their babies.

Pediatric dentists warn however, that prolonged use of a pacifier can lead to long-term dental issues too, if the use of pacifiers continues over the age of 2. The overuse of a dummy can cause a child’s teeth to slant outward, whereby children end up needing corrective dental procedures later on in life. Many dentists also highlight the fact prolonged usage could cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth, and changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth.

However, contrary to popular belief, Jane Saxman, DDS, of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, says that pacifiers reduce the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Babies who are offered a pacifier do not sleep as deeply, and sucking on a dummy can result in an infant to be aroused from sleep easily.

Breaking a long term habit in children is not easy, especially if children use that habit to comfort themselves when anxious or during sleep. There are however, many gentle ways to help children to break the habit, and it is advised that parents start a proactive approach well before their child’s second birthday.

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