Ever seen a four or five year old child still using a pacifier? Unfortunately, I have and not just one or two children either! It seems like pacifier use is becoming extremely common these days, which for the most part is fine. I’ve got four kids of my own, and I definitely understand why! Those early years with your kids are challenging enough and anything you can do to help keep your little one happier seems worth it. Pacifiers help soothe young children and also reduce the risk of SIDS. One of the greatest things about pacifiers is that you can take them away when it is time to do so. The problem is that most parents either don’t know when they should stop them or are afraid to upset their child by doing so.
No matter how hard it is, you need to have your child stop using a pacifier by age 2. The long term use of a pacifier beyond age 2 can cause permanent damage with the proper position and alignment of the jaw, roof of the mouth, and teeth. Any changes in these areas prior to age two will resolve all on their own as long pacifier use is stopped. The typical pattern I see with children who have used pacifiers too long is a high narrow roof the mouth, narrow top arch of teeth, and front teeth that no longer come together when biting down. The only solution for this is an early, extended, and expensive course of orthodontic treatment. From start to finish you might be looking at nearly $10,000 in orthodontic costs to fix everything.
Another non-dental complication of pacifier use is an increased rate of ear infections. The constant suction produced by pacifier use increases the size of a tube that leads to the middle ear. This allows more bacteria, etc to travel up the tube and cause infections.
So how do you get the child to stop using it? Parents have tried all sorts of different methods including dipping the pacifier in something distasteful like vinegar, cutting parts of it off, putting a hole in it, and ultimately just taking it away. No matter how you do it, the couple of days to a week where you make the change are going to be difficult. As long as you stick with the process, it will be over quickly and your child will re-adjust to life without it sooner than you think. One of the worst things you can do is take it away and give it back several times over. Once you commit to the process just go for it!