Dentists are cautioning parents that children should give up their pacifiers by the time they’re three years old.
The timing varies, but it’s generally 2-1/2 to 3, according to Maumee, Ohio, pediatric dentists Stephen Pero and Michael Glinka, who have been in practice together for more than 36 years.
Or, as Glinka added, “when the child is old enough to like money more than they like their pacifier.”
That measure of readiness is based on some 600 pacifiers that hang on the walls of their colourful treatment room. All have come from patients who have agreed to sell them to the dentists for 50 cents apiece. Some kids bring in more than one.
The dentists’ approach to separating patients from their pacifiers inspired Robert Bowers’ latest book, You Must Take That Pacifier Out!, a slim, $6.95 paperback written in rhyme and available from the company he recently founded, A Gift of Words Publishing (agiftofwordspublishing.com), and Amazon.com.
Bowers, of Maumee, is a stay-at-home dad who writes and illustrates books for children and young teens. He and his wife, Nicole, as the parents of two young children, are no strangers to the pacifier issue. The “Pacifier Fairy” has been summoned to their household more than once to make things disappear.
Pero and Glinka also reward thumb- and finger-suckers for breaking the habit.
The kids get $1 when they bring a calendar to the office showing they’ve been clean for 30 days.
They recommend that parents step in to break the pacifier or thumb habit if it’s still going on when the child is 3-1/2 to four. By then, it’s not serving any useful purpose and may be causing dental problems.
“The sucking reflex is normal,” Pero stressed. “You want your baby to nurse or suck on a bottle.”
Sucking also is a way for children to comfort and relax themselves, Glinka said. Parents should not feel guilty about using a pacifier to silence a wailing infant, he said, pointing out that “child-rearing is not an easy task.”
Babies begin sucking even before they’re born, and most stop what’s called “non-nutritive sucking” on their own between the ages of 2 and 4, according to the American Dental Association.
“The behavior lessens gradually during this period, as children spend more of their waking hours exploring their surroundings. Peer pressure also causes many school-aged children to stop placing their fingers in their mouths,” states a patient handout.
Pacifier use is often an easier habit to break than thumb-sucking, the ADA says.
Even more important than providing comfort, pacifiers have been shown by some research to decrease the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.