Tioga Dental & Orthodontics
13005 Southwest 1st Road, Suite 233, Gainesville, FL 32669
Baby’s first tooth is a milestone for parents. It’s part of every child’s development, and all parents are anxious that their baby grows up healthy and strong. Dental health is one aspect, though, that may not receive as much focus, yet it is important to ensure that your baby’s teeth and gums are healthy. The CDC estimates that approximately one in five children aged 2 to 5 have primary tooth decay, with one in ten showing untreated cavities. Lack of dental care in their younger years can cause problems as children grow older. This is reflected in the fact that nearly three in five children aged 6 to 8 have dental caries. So how can you, as parents, ensure that your child has good oral health? And what happens if your toddler’s teeth aren’t straight? Below we tackle some common concerns parents have about toddler dental care, debunk a few myths, and provide information related to your toddler’s crooked teeth.
Good dental hygiene is a must, regardless of age. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents should begin taking care of their children’s dental health from birth. A newborn’s gums should be kept clean by wiping them gently with a washcloth or a moist cotton gauze pad. As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, start brushing with a small amount of toothpaste, no larger than a smear or a grain of rice, says the ADA. Use a toothpaste with fluoride which helps strengthen tooth enamel. Just like adults, toddlers should have their teeth brushed twice a day, morning and night. If you experience problems brushing your child’s teeth, you’re not alone. Make it fun, suggests registered dental assistant Jessica Ray to Today’s Parent. “Turn tooth-brushing time into a happy time. Sing songs. Make up rhymes.” What about flossing? Well, once your toddler has two teeth next to each other, it’s time to start. Baby Center recommends flossing immediately after brushing as this can help draw the fluoride from the toothpaste between the teeth as well. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research warns against keeping a bottle in your baby’s mouth overnight. Putting your child to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula or juice can cause something called “baby bottle tooth decay” which is tooth decay caused by prolonged exposure to sugar. The child’s teeth are soaking in sugars which eat away at tooth enamel and cause cavities. Tooth decay can ultimately lead to tooth loss — and even in baby teeth, tooth loss can be problematic as primary teeth are there to hold space for permanent teeth which are developing. Premature loss of primary teeth cause can lead to crooked or misaligned permanent teeth. Cavities can spread very quickly in primary teeth, and developing a good dental care routine for your little one will go a long way in helping to keep their teeth and gums healthy. This is an excellent time to inculcate good oral hygiene practices in children.
You may think that toddlers are too young for dental visits, but that is untrue. Babies typically have their first tooth eruption when they are six months old. Once their first tooth appears, you should take them to the dentist, says Parenting.com. They suggest looking into pediatric dentists or family dentists and find one comfortable treating babies. Your dentist can ensure that your baby’s dental development is on track, help manage any bad habits that can cause crooked teeth and offer advice about keeping your child’s teeth and gums healthy. If your toddler’s primary teeth are crooked, the dentist can monitor the situation and offer treatment options should be they necessary. Starting with dental check-ups at a young age also creates the healthy habit of regular dental visits that will have lifelong benefits for your child.
The formation of crooked teeth is not due to genetics; however, dentist Chris Kammer at The Bump writes that children do inherit both the shape of their teeth and the shape of their jaw from their parents. A problem might occur if, for instance, your child inherits your small jaw size and your spouse’s larger teeth. The mismatch in size can cause overcrowding and crooked teeth. If you think that genetics may play a part in the health and alignment of your child’s teeth, bring up your concerns and seek advice from your dentist. Your dentist can assess the development of your toddler’s jaw and develop a treatment plan, if needed.
Firstly, it’s important to note that having crooked baby teeth does not necessarily mean having crooked permanent teeth as there are many other factors that could affect teeth alignment. Your dentist can provide the best advice based on your child’s particular condition. Dentist Melissa Skinner points out at North Shore Mama that primary teeth can often straighten on their own over time. Just keep an eye on the other teeth as they emerge, she says. If they are straight, then there’s nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, a child’s primary teeth are overcrowded, Skinner warns that it’s a good future indicator that the permanent teeth could similarly experience overcrowding. This is because overcrowding is caused by a lack of space in the jaw. As mentioned above, this is something that your dentist can assess and treat. If your toddler has crooked teeth, maintaining good dental hygiene becomes doubly important. It is more difficult to keep crooked teeth clean and free of food particles, particularly between the teeth. Proper brushing and flossing is necessary to prevent plaque build-up and the formation of dental caries. Cavities are more likely to occur on crooked teeth, so keeping up with your kid’s regular dental visits is also recommended.
Yes, thumbsucking can lead to crooked teeth. The motion of thumbsucking exerts pressure on the jaw which, over time, can lead to the misalignment of teeth and protrusion of the upper teeth. Similarly, pacifiers can also contribute to crooked teeth. Interestingly, the ADA writes that it’s not simply sucking that can affect your baby’s teeth but, more importantly, the intensity of the sucking. Kids who suck their thumbs, fingers or pacifiers aggressively are more likely to suffer from dental problems. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also notes that thumb sucking and the use of pacifiers are only detrimental if they are prolonged, as most children typically grow out of the habit around the age of three. Well Being Kid suggests keeping on an eye on what your toddler is putting into his mouth. Habits such as chewing on toys, biting fingernails or chewing on cloth can inadvertently lead to crooked teeth as well. This is because those motions place extra pressure on your baby’s gums and can affect the direction in which teeth grow.
While spaces between teeth in an adult is something to be concerned about, it certainly isn’t a problem for toddlers. Spaces between their baby teeth make it easier to clean your child’s teeth. These spaces reduce the likelihood of overcrowding and provide extra room for permanent teeth to come in straight. Images by: Pixabay, sylviebliss