Can pacifiers damage the palate?

Can moderate pacifier use damage my baby's palate?

Question:

Pacifier use may change the natural shape of the palate, which forms the roof of the mouth. Many children who suck on pacifiers show a depression resembling the shape of the pacifier nipple in the palatial tissues. The extent of the deformation probably depends on the sucking duration, sucking force, pacifier shape and pacifier size.

The infant palate is particularly soft and flexible. It is not clear if these deformations change or disappear after pacifier use has ceased. The long-term effect of pacifier use on the upper jaw and teeth position is currently under investigation.

Orthodontically correct pacifiers do not interfere with normal tooth and jaw development. An improved pacifier design that also supports the normal growth of the palate may be needed.

Interestingly, children using fingers, toys and other pacifier alternatives have more dental and jaw deformations than those using a pacifier (Verwendung et al., 1993).

Use a pacifier only when it is really necessary. Marjo et al. (1995) suggests limiting pacifier use to the first 10 months of life, when the need for sucking is the strongest.

I know many infants will object to this proposal! Therefore, I recommend the use of an orthodontically correct pacifier. While it is best to decrease or eliminate nonnutritive sucking early, many irreversible orthodontic effects will not appear until the permanent teeth begin erupting.

References:

Baer et al., "The thumb, the pacifier, the erupting tooth, and a beautiful smile" Journal of Pedodontics (1987) 11(2):113-119.

Marjo et al. "A pacifier increases the risk of recurrent acute otitis media in children in day care centers" Pediatrics (1995) 96:884-888.

Verwendung et al., "Utilization of pacifiers distribution, causes and sequelae" Schweiz. Rundsch. Med. Prax.(1993) 83(33):885-887.

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