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The Pacifier

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

I understand this is a sticky topic, yet its importance begs for more understanding and education. Of course, I’m talking about the pacifier. You know him, Mr. Bobo, Binky, Paci, Nuknuk, yes, I’m talking about that guy.           

The mouth is the largest access to the inside of the body. Ninety percent of systemic disease has an oral footprint, so it communicates the health of 90% of the body. Your mouth is in the center of the action; therefore, oral problems can only travel in 2 directions: up or down, your brain or your heart. There is a systemic connection between your mouth and the rest of the body. The mouth is the first part of your digestive system, which is important when we understand that the digestive system makes up eighty percent of your immune system. Your mouth houses your teeth which allows you to masticate your food, preparing the digestive process. Your mouth provides for communication through speech. It also has the strongest muscle for its size; the strong man, the tongue, which forms the floor of the nose, the airway, and the position of teeth. As you can see, the mouth is a pretty big deal, and assuring it’s healthy and clean is just part of guaranteeing overall health through it.

Let’s talk about this strong man, the tongue. Did you know that his primary residence is the roof of your mouth? It lives there because it forms the floor of the nose allowing for proper nasal breathing. You can only breathe clean air through your nose. Breathing through the mouth does not allow the nasal passages and sinuses to sterilize the air you breathe. The airway is formed when the tongue is at home in the roof of the mouth. The tongue is a very strong muscle, and because our muscles shape our bones, it guides the teeth into proper placement and alignment. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several benefits for pacifiers in ages 6 months or less with the primary purposes of soothing, comforting the baby, and possibly assisting in decreasing SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). However, studies also show that after 6 months, usually past the threat of SIDS, pacifiers are most likely three times the cause of middle ear infections. At 6 months, we also expect to see the first baby tooth on the lower front of the mouth.

What happens after 6 months? The baby is still being soothed, yet bad habits are being formed. The pacifier sits on the top of the tongue, blocking it from the roof of the mouth. The tongue on a growing baby has a big job. When it is allowed to rise to the top (roof) of the mouth, it forms the base of the nose and nasal passages and the baby’s airway. It also widens the roof to allow proper space for the baby and eventually permanent teeth to erupt. The tongue is the enforcer of this development. Usually, at around 6 months, the 1st tooth arrives, and by 2 years old, the child has twenty teeth. One of the roles of baby teeth is to be the forerunner of adult teeth. The permanent teeth follow the road map (the roots) of the baby teeth to erupt in proper alignment. By twenty teeth, the tongue should have established adequate width in the roof of the mouth. If this has not occurred, it will produce underdeveloped jaws, crowding, and misalignment of the adult teeth. Unfortunately, this is not the only outcome as the tongue also forms the floor of the nose and airway.

According to the American Dental Association, the use of a pacifier can lead to crowded or crooked teeth.

Misaligned teeth contribute to chewing problems, jaw pains, headaches, migraines, and social concerns due to malocclusions or bucked teeth.

Some studies say a baby is three times more likely to get ear infections if using a binky after six (6) months. Alternatives to the Binky are breastfeeding, rocking, bouncing, white noise, and teething toys.

 It is shown that seventy-five to eighty percent of babies in Western countries use pacifiers for:

-          Suck reflex; lowers Blood Pressure, heart rate, and stress levels

-          Soothing

-          Security

It is thought that less than thirty percent of adults have correctly aligned teeth in Western countries. Could this misalignment have started when they were infants?

A pacifier will help pop your baby’s ears during a flight as they cannot do so yet from swallowing. But after 6 months, that soothing benefit pales next to misaligned teeth, headaches, speech problems, sleep apnea, allergies, asthma, and breathing disorders. Once tooth development begins around 6 months, consider proper mouth growth and tongue placement without the barrier of the pacifier.

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