Dentists often recommend discontinuing the use of pacifiers and switching to an open cup early in life - in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends switching to an open cup by 12 months. Pacifiers are also important to graduate from use as well to promote good jaw development and reduce dental crowding. But did you know that dentists aren't the only professionals concerned about their use?
Speech language pathologists (SLPs) may recommend discontinuing the use of pacifiers and sippy cups early in life for a few reasons as well which encourage proper speech and oral motor development.
Firstly, prolonged use of pacifiers can interfere with the development of speech and language skills. The use of pacifiers can affect the development of oral muscles needed for speech, as they can cause the tongue to rest in an unnatural position, and may result in an incorrect tongue placement or tongue thrust and a high palate, constricted airway, and may contribute to frequent ear infections as well. Children who use pacifiers for an extended period may also develop an open bite, which can affect their ability to pronounce certain sounds. While research shows less of an impact on adult teeth position if the pacifier is eliminated before age 4, it may still impact other areas of development so slowly retiring its use is desirable for best growth results.
Similarly, SLPs may recommend discontinuing the use of sippy cups because they can also negatively impact oral development. Sippy cups can encourage children to suck, rather than sip, which can cause similar issues with oral muscle development and tongue placement. Additionally, sippy cups containing sugary beverages (watered-down juice included) increases the risk for tooth decay and is a major contributor to the cause of children needing extensive dental treatment under general anesthesia - something all parents hope to avoid for their children.
In general, SLPs recommend that infants and young children start to learn to drink from an open cup or straw as soon as they are developmentally able, which is typically around six months of age. Drinking from an open cup or straw encourages proper tongue placement and oral muscle development, and promotes healthy dental habits.
It is worth noting that every child is different, and the recommendations of any health professional may vary based on individual needs and circumstances. However, in general, discontinuing the use of pacifiers and sippy cups can help promote healthy oral development and support the development of speech and language skills.