Pacifier use and language development

I am a second year student at SUNY Cobleskill majoring in early childhood education. I am currently working on a research paper that deals with the pros and cons of pacifiers.

I was wondering if you have any information about the dental development and also the language development of a child that has been using a pacifier for a while. I was also wondering if you could give me any information on how to successfully ween a child from a pacifier.


Using a pacifier during the early years of child development generally does not permanently alter the position of the teeth or jaws. Occasionally, the upper jaw (i.e. maxilla) can become somewhat deformed causing the upper teeth to be malaligned. This deformation is generally seen as an open bite or overbite. The amount of deformation will most likely be based on the amount of time the child is sucking on the pacifier. Most deformations are self-correcting, especially if the habit ceases before eruption of the permanent incisors.

If any deformation exists, it could have an effect on language development since primary teeth help form sounds (i.e. phonetics). With an open bite or overbite, tongue placement is difficult and could interfere with tongue and lower lip placement, resulting in problems with various sounds, such as "s", "t", "th", "f", etc. However, it is not likely the pacifier habit alone would cause a deformation affecting language development. If a large overbite exists, it is most likely a skeletal problem and would have been present even without a pacifier.

As most parents have experienced, weaning a child off the pacifier can be tricky business! Many times when a child begins preschool or nursery school, peer pressure alone may be enough to stop the habit, at least during the daytime. Some parents tell their child they are allowed to have the pacifier only at bedtime. After the child is asleep, a parent or caregiver can then remove the pacifier. Another tactic may be to tell the child they can use their pacifier for 3 more months, and then they will be too old for it. Other parents conveniently "loose" the pacifier. Because the pacifier can fill an emotional need for the child, a parent should use some caution when breaking a child of this habit. The weening process may not be worth the psychological battle! If a parent or caregiver has trouble stopping this habit and notices a dental problem, I would recommend consulting a dentist to help determine the extent of the problem.

Please keep me posted on your research paper. I would like to read the final version if you don't mind sending me a copy.

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