Increase in Ear Infections?
On the other hand, there are also studies linking pacifiers to ear infections. For example, in a study published in Pediatrics, researchers found a 33 percent increase in ear infections in 6- to 10-month-old infants with unlimited use of a pacifier compared with those who only used one at bedtime. Doctors suspect that when a baby has a stuffy nose and sucks on a pacifier, it creates harmful pressure in the tube between the nose and the ear, increasing the likelihood of an infection.
There are also conflicting studies concerning binkies and breastfeeding. Some studies link early (before four weeks of age) pacifier use to decreased breastfeeding when mothers mistakenly substitute a pacifier for the breast, while other research indicates that babies who use pacifiers exhibit less breastfeeding problems overall, perhaps because they get extra sucking practice.
Effects on Teeth
While SIDS, breastfeeding, and ear infections are important issues to consider, the big pacifier debate has historically been about teeth. Dentists and orthodontists warn that pacifiers and thumb sucking keep them in business fixing buck teeth and misshapen jaw lines while legions of mothers claim that their children were addicted to pacifiers with no ill effects. Why the disparity?
"Every child is affected differently by pacifier usage. The effects depend on three factors: how intensely the child sucks, how long the child sucks, and how often the child sucks," explains pediatric dentist Dr. David Snodgrass, DDS. But he goes on to warn, "Pacifiers can be extremely detrimental to a growing face, causing the underlying skeletal structures (bones and cartilage) to grow asymmetrically. They cause the upper front teeth to intrude and protrude which can interfere with proper speech and development and can lead to a tongue thrust."
Dr. Snodgrass also dispels the common myth that pacifiers only affect baby teeth, so if your child is weaned from his binky before his permanent teeth come in, there shouldn't be a problem. He says, "Pacifiers can harm a child's normal growth and development causing the upper arch to be too narrow and the lower jaw joint to develop incorrectly." With a mouth malformed as a baby, adult teeth will come in improperly too. And the cost of correcting these malformations? Anywhere from $650 to $950 for a device to correct problems in young children and possibly around $5,000 for braces later on.