Many parents ask us – “Is there anything I can do to ensure that my child has nice teeth and won’t need to have braces?”.
Many orthodontic problems are hereditary, so you can’t really do anything about them, some others are preventable to a certain extent. Below is a short article on what you can do to prevent orthodontic problems in children.
The most common causes of orthodontic problems in children include soother, dummy or thumb sucking past a certain age. For a small baby, sucking its thumb can seem harmless enough but if allowed to go on, it can have detrimental effects on their teeth and speech.
If your child sucks his or her thumb (or a pacifier) past the age of one or two, talk to your pediatrician or orthodontist about how you can help break those bad habits.
Why do babies suck their thumb?
Thumb sucking is a habit that starts out in babies as a way of keeping themselves calm and to help them fall asleep. Sometimes children suck their thumbs or fingers when they are feeling anxious, nervous, bored or scared. In babies, it could start due to the irritation caused by teething, but most children usually grow out of it by 12 months of age.
How does thumb sucking affect a child’s teeth?
Thumb or pacifier sucking can result in “malocclusions” which is the official term for a misalignment of the teeth and bite.
The most common type of problem that kids can have due to prolonged thumb sucking is when the upper teeth are pushed forward, as though they are moving toward sticking straight out. This is called an “overjet”, or anterior open bite (where the top teeth and the bottom teeth don’t touch when biting).
Protruding teeth can cause problems with biting and chewing food. They can also cause speech disorders, such as lisping and be the reason for some facial distortion as the forward position of the teeth and jaw affect the overall shape of the face.
How can you prevent orthodontic problems in children?
- Prevent thumb sucking habit from forming by distracting your child and offering positive re-enforcement
- Transition from bottles, pacifiers and sippy cups as soon as possible (definitely by the age of 18 months)
- Keep an eye out for any of these problems:
- Crowded or misplaced teeth
- Protruding teeth
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Speech difficulty
- Difficulty in chewing or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
If you have concerns about your child’s teeth, come and see us. Our orthodontist will be able to advise you on the best course of action.