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.
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However, you can help your child develop healthy, beautiful teeth by encouraging good dental hygiene, discouraging thumb-sucking and taking her to an orthodontist.
Prevent 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.
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.
A child's front permanent teeth may angle away from the center and look crooked. The good news is, this is normal, and the teeth should straighten out naturally as the other permanent teeth come in, according to the University of Washington's School of Medicine and Public Health.
If a child has a jaw that is too small, there might not be enough room for the adult teeth to come in. This can cause the teeth to shift after eruption, which leads to overcrowded teeth. Plus, if parents have large teeth, their child can inherit the same fate. Large teeth combined with a smaller jaw can lead to teeth coming in crooked.
Kids can also have an overbite or an underbite, which may cause teeth to come in crooked. An overbite is when the upper front teeth extend out over the lower front teeth. Whereas, an underbite happens when the lower front teeth sit in front of the upper front teeth.
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.
See 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.