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What Is an Orthodontic Pacifier?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

A binky is a needed source of comfort for many infants, but it's natural to want to know if using a pacifier is risky for your baby. Is thumb-sucking better? And what is an orthodontic pacifier? Here's what to know to make the right choices for your child.

Health Implications of Using Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking

When it comes to pacifiers and thumb-sucking, you can't control your baby's preference. Neither is more preferable than the other from a medical perspective, according to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, and each one has its own set of pros and cons.

Young children who use pacifiers are at a slightly increased risk of developing ear infections compared with infants who suck their thumbs. But when it comes to kicking the habit, parents of thumb-suckers face a tougher weaning challenge than parents of children who use a binky — which can simply be taken away when it's no longer age appropriate. In addition, babies who suck their thumbs may be less likely to have difficulties with breastfeeding, but they're more prone to dental problems if they continue thumb-sucking beyond the age of 4.

Orthodontics vs. Conventional Pacifiers

Parents face a bewildering array of pacifier types to choose from. Your pediatrician, pediatric dentist or family dentist can offer advice on which type is best for your baby, but it helps to understand the major differences. The University of Rochester Medical Center explains that pacifiers are made from latex, soft plastic or silicon rubber, though pacifiers made from silicon are preferable to those made from latex or plastic. This is because silicon's smooth surface is more inhospitable to germs.

Pacifiers are typically categorized as non-orthodontic or orthodontic. Non-orthodontic pacifiers are the conventional or traditional type. The part of a non-orthodontic pacifier that sits in the infant's mouth is rounded like a bulb. Alternately, orthodontic pacifiers are flatter and squarer.

Possible Advantages of an Orthodontic Pacifier

An orthodontic pacifier is designed to mimic the shape the mother's nipple forms while the infant is nursing, and this type of pacifier accommodates the natural movement of the baby's tongue, as the University of Rochester Medical Center explains.

The type of pacifier you choose can also affect your baby's dental health and oral habits. A study published in BMC Pediatrics states that babies who suck on orthodontic pacifiers are less likely to have malocclusion (bite) issues. This may be partly due to the fact that non-orthodontic pacifiers require excessive use of the buccinator muscle, while orthodontic pacifiers do not. The study also found that infants who received an orthodontic pacifier before the age of 3 months were less likely to develop thumb-sucking habits or other poor oral health habits.

Many babies and toddlers love their binky, but parents sometimes worry about the risks. If you're concerned about giving your infant a pacifier, or if you're unsure which type is best for your child's needs, speak to your pediatrician or dentist. An orthodontic pacifier could be exactly the right thing to provide comfort and help your baby sleep.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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