The eruption of a baby’s first tooth is an exciting time in the life of a parent. Over the coming months, several more teeth will appear, giving your little one a darling toothy grin. However, excitement can quickly turn to concern if the teeth aren’t lining up quite right. Before scheduling an appointment with an orthodontist for your baby, it is important to remember that your baby is still growing and developing at a rapid pace. The position and appearance of baby teeth when they first emerge are not always permanent and do not determine the placement and alignment of permanent teeth. Otherwise known as milk teeth, baby teeth are precursors to adult teeth. Still, many of them will stick around throughout their elementary school years. Caring for them properly and knowing when there is cause for concern is vital.
The genes that your baby inherits from mom and dad play a significant role in the way that their teeth look and fit in their mouth. If one parent has a narrow jaw and the other has big teeth, and the baby inherits both traits, they will likely have tooth crowding problems.
Crooked teeth are still healthy teeth. However, teeth that are crowded or overlapping are more prone to decay. The tight spaces between teeth can harbor sugar and bacteria. Saliva that usually rinses away these substances is less effective, making it more difficult to keep teeth clean. Since baby teeth have a thinner outer layer of enamel than adult teeth, a good oral hygiene routine will be essential to preventing cavities.
Even with perfect genes, baby teeth may still erupt in ways that may appear unusual but are not cause for concern. Here are some typical patterns you may see as your child gets their first teeth.
V-Shaped Pattern: Common in the bottom front teeth, you may notice that the teeth are turned towards one another, making a “V.” Many children’s teeth erupt in this fashion. As the child’s mouth continues to grow and develop, the teeth may straighten out on their own.
Angled Teeth: It is not uncommon for children to have teeth that appear twisted from day one. There are many possible reasons why teeth come in this way, including a genetic predisposition. Often, these teeth still straighten out and move into position with pressure from your baby’s tongue.
Crowding: Your baby’s jawbones grow and change a lot from the time they get their first tooth until their adult teeth move into place. As the jaw grows, teeth may have more room. However, crowding does increase the need for consistent brushing and flossing to keep teeth clean. If your dentist believes there is not enough room for adult teeth, crowding is an issue that they can address in early childhood.
Since tooth placement is mainly determined by genetics, you can do little to prevent crooked teeth. However, allowing your child to suck on a pacifier or thumb can exacerbate existing problems. This motion puts pressure on a child’s front teeth and can push them out of alignment.
While sucking is natural and is an invaluable tool for calming babies, this practice should be limited more and more as children get older.
While most dentists agree that children should stop using a pacifier or sucking their thumb between the ages of one and three, it can be a challenging venture, especially for thumb-suckers. It may require significant efforts on the part of parents and caretakers. Because it is easier to control pacifier use, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends parents offer a pacifier instead of allowing children to suck on their fingers. If your child doesn’t take a pacifier, however, don’t panic. Many children prefer their fingers. If they do, they should stop sucking their thumb by the time adult teeth start coming in. Ending thumb-sucking before it impacts adult teeth can help ensure proper alignment and reduce the need for orthodontic treatment later.
Orthodontists are addressing concerns with tooth alignment at younger ages than in previous generations. Beginning the first phases of orthodontic treatment while children are still growing allows them to guide the growth of the hard palate and placement of new adult teeth. If your child has crooked teeth or signs of crowding, it is a good idea to consult with an orthodontist around the age of seven or eight. Your orthodontist can assess the situation, monitor changes, and decide when to intervene.
Crooked and misaligned baby teeth are par for the course for most babies. As they grow and develop, many of these issues will work themselves out. Others will disappear when their permanent teeth arrive. In most cases, there is no need to do anything more than watch and wait. Regardless of the appearance of your child’s teeth, trips to see the Utah family dentist are essential. Your child’s dentist is the best person to identify any problems, and it is an excellent time for your child to get accustomed to going to the dentist with the rest of the family.