Pacifiers: The Good vs. Bad

In many homes, a pacifier is the go-to device for soothing a crying baby. However, parents may not be aware that pacifier usage can have some negative implications. Although a pacifier has many good characteristics, it can also prove problematic. Here is the good and the bad when it comes to this nursery staple:

Pacifiers: The Good


Pacifiers are a great way to soothe your baby. When a baby cries, the crying can place a significant amount of stress, both emotionally and physically, on the little one.  Children often prefer sucking as a way to calm themselves. Since the sucking reflex begins inside the womb, the action feels completely natural to a child.

Lowered Risk of SIDS

Pacifiers may lower your child’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The exact reason that pacifier usage lowers a youngster’s risk of SIDS is not yet understood, but there seems to a positive relationship between binkies and fewer cases of SIDS.

Sucking without Decay

Pacifiers also allow your child to suck without the risk of decay associated with bottle usage. Parents who give their babies bottles during periods of rest increase the chance of their little ones developing a serious oral health issue called baby bottle decay.

As a child sucks on a bottle that is filled with milk or juice, the liquid pools in the child’s mouth. The natural sugars in the milk and juice feed bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, within the mouth and promote tooth decay. When a child sucks on a pacifier, as long as the device has not been dipped into a sugary substance, no tooth decay should result.

Tooth decay can require restorative dental care, such as fillings and dental caps. In severe cases, it can result in the extraction of a tooth. When a primary tooth is lost too early, it can affect the alignment of the underlying permanent tooth.

Orthodontic Pacifiers

When a child sucks his or her thumb, a significant amount of pressure is placed on the roof of the mouth. This can eventually result in a crossbite, overbite or bucked teeth. The crossbite occurs when the teeth on the sides of your child’s upper and lower palate don’t meet. An overbite is characterized by the front teeth of the upper palate protruding significantly beyond the lower front teeth. In addition, the top two front teeth are bucked when they protrude forward and include a large space between them.

Although many pacifiers are not designed to protect the alignment of a child’s teeth. Orthodontic pacifiers fit the normal shape of the mouth and are less likely to result in orthodontic issues.


When a child forms a habit of sucking his or her thumb, obviously, the thumb cannot be taken away permanently. As a result, the little one may find it more difficult to break a thumb-sucking habit than a habit of sucking a pacifier. Children who suck pacifiers can eventually be weaned from the device by removing it from the child’s access or reach.

Weight Gain for Premature Babies

Some studies suggest that premature babies who regularly suck a pacifier may gain weight faster than those who don’t. The sucking apparently helps a premature baby’s jaw and mouth muscles develop properly to make feeding easier.

Pacifiers: The Bad

Breastfeeding Problems

Pacifiers are sometimes associated with breastfeeding problems. Children who are offered a pacifier too soon may not latch onto the breast properly or feed as often as they should. Thus, if a binkie is going to be offered as a soothing mechanism for your little one who is breastfed, it’s best to wait a month or so before offering it.

Ear Infections

Pacifiers are linked to an increase in ear infections. This is especially true for children who suck a pacifier throughout the day. As a child sucks, fluid may be drawn into the inner ears, leading to an infection.

Dental Alignment Problems

Children who suck pacifiers that are not orthodontic have an increased risk of misalignment issues. Significant problems may present for kids who suck a pacifier after their permanent teeth begin to erupt.

Using a pacifier occasionally should not cause any harm. However, if you are concerned that your child’s pacifier usage may be affecting his or her oral health, schedule an appointment with our office for a consultation.