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Study finds pacifier use may offer some health benefits

Babies who use pacifiers may enjoy some positive health affects, according to dental researchers. A study in the January/February issue of General Dentistry shows that babies who use pacifiers at bedtime may have a reduced incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

"Babies who are offered a pacifier do not sleep as deeply as those who sleep without a pacifier," said Dr. Jane Soxman, author of the study and Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. "Pacifier sucking makes it possible for the infant to be aroused from a deep sleep that could result in the stopping of breathing. Pacifiers also increase sucking satisfaction and provide a source of comfort to infants."

Parents, dentists and physicians may be more aware of the down side of pacifier use — including the need for weaning a child from pacifier use, possible tooth alignment and changes in the shape of the mouth, possible mouth lacerations and more.

A study in The Journal of the American Dental Association found that children who continue to suck a thumb, finger or pacifier past age 2 increase their risk of developing protruding front teeth and an improper bite with narrowing of the upper jaw relative to the lower jaw, known as crossbite.

The American Dental Association recommends that parents give their baby a pacifier rather than a bottle of juice, milk or formula at bedtime to prevent early childhood tooth decay and also notes that teething babies might find relief by using a pacifier. Always give your baby a clean pacifier and never dip it in sugar or honey.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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