Crooked teeth are a common problem among children, often due to genetics or growth that displaces the position of baby teeth and the permanent teeth that are developing underneath them. Still, other children end up with crooked teeth because of habits like thumb-sucking or pacifier use. Having crooked teeth isn’t merely a cosmetic issue for children—it can also cause speech and dental problems over time.
Parents naturally want their children to be healthy and have every advantage, including a bright, well-aligned smile. We see many young patients who get braces or Invisalign when they’re adolescents to correct misalignments and are thrilled with the results. But parents should know that there are steps they can take even before a child’s permanent teeth come in that can make future orthodontic treatment simpler and easier.
Thumb-Sucking and Pacifiers
Thumb-sucking is a self-soothing habit that nearly all babies exhibit because sucking is a natural reflex. While some children will grow out of this habit without needing any intervention from their parents, others persist into early childhood. When this is the case, thumb-sucking can cause the front teeth to move out of alignment and deform the palate, potentially affecting a child’s speech as well as how they bite and chew. It can also interfere with how the permanent teeth start to come in around ages 6 to 7.
Rather than waiting for this to happen, it’s better to try to discourage or limit thumb-sucking before damage is done. It can be helpful to talk to your pediatrician about strategies for gently redirecting your child to other means of self-soothing. Praising your child for their efforts to stop is likely to be more effective than attempting to discipline them, as it can be hard to let go of familiar, comforting habits.
Pacifiers can also potentially cause a similar misalignment of the baby teeth, according to the American Dental Association. However, it can be easier to limit access to a pacifier and gradually wean your child off of using one than trying to break a thumb-sucking habit. Make sure the pacifier is not constantly available throughout the day (for example, do not clip one to your child’s clothes), and work on limiting its use to sleep times, or to being used in the crib or bed only. Again, your pediatrician is likely to be able to help with more useful tips, especially if the habit has continued into the toddler years.
Besides being careful to keep thumb-sucking or pacifier use in check, there is another key step parents can take to give their children the best odds of achieving straight teeth more easily—bringing them in for an early exam! While a typical course of orthodontic treatment is done when all permanent teeth are in, some serious jaw and bite issues can be spotted much earlier, as they’re developing. More importantly, they can be addressed while your child is still growing with a short course of orthodontics known as Phase 1 treatment, minimizing the chances they will need to have extractions or jaw surgery later. How early should you bring your child in? No later than age 7, and earlier if you have any concerns whatsoever about their teeth coming in crooked. Phase 1 treatment is incredibly helpful for about 30% of the kids we see, and when it’s necessary, it saves a world of trouble and expense! At B Orthodontics, we believe so strongly in the value of early intervention we offer a complimentary initial examination to our youngest patients.
Timely Treatment for Lasting Results
Our goal in treating children is always to intervene at the right time with the minimum treatment necessary to properly align the teeth. In most cases, any orthodontic treatment your child needs will take place during their teen years. B Orthodontics offers both braces and Invisalign for straightening the teeth to give our patients options that suit their treatment goals and their preferences. And don’t forget—when kids are undergoing orthodontic treatment, it’s important to continue seeing a regular dentist ensure that teeth are clean and healthy.
If you want your child to have a lifelong beautiful smile and healthy teeth, B Orthodontics is here to help. We work with every family to chart the right course of treatment for each patient. To schedule your child’s complimentary exam, contact us here today.