When your children lose their first few teeth, it can be a very exciting time for them. They might feel proud to know they’re getting older, or they might even get a visit from the tooth fairy. As a parent, it can be exciting too, even if it’s hard to believe your baby is already losing their baby teeth!
As their new adult teeth come in, you may become concerned that they are not coming in straight. But don’t panic, we’ve got solutions for you. Here’s what you need to know about kids growing their adult teeth.
Why do teeth not come in straight?
It’s very common for children to grow adult teeth that are not straight. Most commonly, this is caused by hereditary factors like extra teeth, large teeth, missing teeth, wide spacing, or small jaws. These can be compounded by habits like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, premature loss of baby teeth, or a poor breathing airway caused by enlarged adenoids. The result is crowded teeth and/or malocclusion (a bad bite).
Step 1: Maintain regular visits to the dentist
As soon as your child first grows baby teeth, it’s important that they begin regular trips to the dentist. Not only can your dentist help ensure your child’s teeth stay clean, but they can keep an eye on the inbound adult teeth. If they notice some teeth are not coming in straight, then they can refer you to an orthodontist.
Since you should be sending your children to the dentist at a young age, we highly recommend sending them to a pediatric dentist. A pediatric dentist specializes in dental care for children, with 2-3 years of additional training to focus on pediatrics. They know how to relate well to kids, how to recognize and cure bad habits, and how to make dentistry fun.
Step 2: Correct Bad Habits
Your dentist can help you identify and correct bad habits that might cause teeth to not come in straight. For instance, pacifiers can be a great way to soothe a baby and even provide health benefits for infants. By the age of two, however, you should have weaned your child of the pacifier. Otherwise, it can cause teeth to grow incorrectly.
Another big instigator of crooked teeth is thumb sucking. Although it may seem like a natural, safer alternative to pacifiers, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends pacifiers instead of thumbs. One of the main reasons for this is that it’s much easier to control pacifier use than it is to prevent thumb-sucking.
The best way to identify bad habits and create a plan for breaking them is to work in consultation with your pediatric dentist. They will have extensive experience helping children change habits, and know how to provide the right kind of motivation to cause change.
Step 3: See how they grow
Some children will have adult teeth that erupt (break through the gums) in a very crooked fashion. They might seem terribly crooked in the early stages of growth, but sometimes they will have corrected themselves by the time they’re fully grown. So if they’re initially crooked, there’s no need to panic. Again, regular visits to your child’s dentist will provide professional insights about any required treatments.
Step 4: Visit the Orthodontist
If your dentist refers you to an orthodontist, then you should definitely go. The sooner your child visits an orthodontist, the earlier they can begin treatment. The earlier treatment begins, the easier (and cheaper) it can be to fix their bite. The reason for this, of course, is they can start correcting things when they’re minor issues instead of waiting until they become major issues.
For this reason, we recommend a child first visits the orthodontist around the age of 7. Adult teeth have started to come in, and the orthodontist can assess if early treatments are necessary to prevent major treatments in the future.
Step 5: Two-Phase orthodontic treatment
In some cases, your orthodontist may recommend a two-phase treatment plan. As you can guess, this consists of two separate periods when a child receives orthodontic treatment. The first phase of treatment begins early, while the child still has many or most of their baby teeth. Braces may or may not be used during the first phase of treatment, and your orthodontist will likely provide orthodontic appliances in this early phase.
There are several appliances that can be used at an early age to make orthodontic treatment easier and quicker when your child reaches their teens. For instance, Tongue Spurs helps reduce tongue movement or thumb sucking that can cause teeth to become crooked. A Palatal Expander is useful for creating space for new teeth or correcting a bite.
The second phase of treatment happens once the child has most or all of their permanent teeth. During this phase, braces are almost definitely used to correct the crooked teeth and bite. Braces treatment typically lasts from 18-36 months. It’s important that your child takes good care of their teeth and braces, because the better they treat them, the shorter they will actually have to wear them.
If you’re looking for more guidance on what to do now, then why not come visit us at Chester County Dentistry for Children? We have convenient locations in Kennett Square, Lionville, and West Chester. Not only do we have trained pediatric dentists who love working with children, we also have orthodontists on our team as well! At Chester County Dentistry for Children, you can be sure that you’ll be welcomed like a family member and your child will receive the best possible care. Contact us today to schedule your appointment, we’d love to meet you.