Straight teeth are not only attractive but are easier to keep clean. Although some children naturally develop straight teeth, other kids need orthodontic work to attain a perfect smile. However, you can help your child develop healthy, beautiful teeth by encouraging good dental hygiene, discouraging thumb-sucking and taking her to an orthodontist.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Keeping baby teeth healthy helps your child create enough space in his jaw for his adult teeth to grow in properly. Baby teeth also help your child eat and speak. Keep your child's teeth healthy by teaching him to drink from a bottle by 12 to 14 months, discouraging the use of a pacifier, brushing his teeth with a small amount of toothpaste, flossing after his baby teeth have all erupted and giving him water, not juice or soda, between meals.
Thumb-sucking is a natural reflex that helps soothe children, but it can also damage the alignment of kids' teeth and the roofs of their mouths. Vigorous thumb-suckers are especially likely to experience problems, according to the American Dental Association's Mouth Healthy website, compared to kids who just rest their thumb in their mouth. Children typically stop thumb-sucking between 2 and 4 years of age, but if your child persists, try praising her when she doesn't suck her thumb, correcting whatever makes her feel anxious or bandaging her thumb.
Even with healthful habits, some kids naturally have crooked teeth. However, it can be difficult for parents to tell whether a child's teeth will be straight as they grow in. For example, the front permanent teeth sometimes angle outward but straighten out as other permanent teeth grow in, according to the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. In other cases, kids might have a problem with their teeth or jaw that only an orthodontist can see, according to the American Association of Orthodontists.
Seeing an Orthodontist
An orthodontist can determine whether your child's teeth are growing in straight and whether she has any problems with her bite and jaw. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids see an orthodontist by the time they turn 7 years of age, even if their teeth seem fine. Early treatment can prevent serious issues and sometimes makes later orthodontic treatment easier. Schedule an appointment with an orthodontist earlier if you notice your child grinding or clenching her teeth, breathing through her mouth, struggling to chew or bite, or biting her cheek or the roof of her mouth.