Many parents have questions when it comes to their child’s orthodontic treatment. “Why do some kids need braces while others don’t?” “I had braces as a child. Does that mean my son or daughter will need them, too?” “Is there anything I can do to keep my child from needing braces?” To help answer these questions, we’ve put together some info on the causes for needing braces, as well as some helpful tips on how to prevent braces from an early age.
Are Braces Totally Unavoidable for Certain Kids?
Unfortunately, some causes for needing braces are simply unavoidable. Orthodontic problems may have to do with genetics, bone structure of the face and jaw, or natural growth problems that occur as children develop first their primary teeth (baby teeth) and then their secondary teeth (adult teeth). However, some problems are preventable to a certain extent. Keep reading to learn about what you can do to reduce your child’s orthodontic health risks and potentially help him or her avoid braces.
Thumbsucking and Pacifiers
Sucking on thumbs or fingers can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. If your child sucks his or her thumb (or displays other oral habits such as chewing on toys or blankets), talk to your pediatrician or orthodontist about how you can help break those bad habits. Pacifiers have similar negative effects on growing mouths and teeth. Although pacifier use is usually an easier habit to break compared to thumbsucking, you should still use caution with pacifiers.
Due to the sucking force of the musculature, both thumbsucking and pacifiers cause orthodontic problems, such as:
- Decreased width of the top jaw bone and teeth, leading to crossbites (where the top teeth bite on the inside of the bottom teeth).
- Anterior open bite (where the top teeth and the bottom teeth don’t touch when biting). This makes it hard to eat apples, bite into sandwiches, etc.
- Anterior tongue thrust. This commonly develops when the tongue compensates for an open bite. This forward thrust of the tongue can maintain an open bite even if the thumb or whatever cause is removed. The tongue is such a strong muscle that it can flare the teeth.
More Tips on How to Prevent Braces
For some kids, early prevention tactics may be effective in reducing the length and extent of orthodontic treatment—or even eliminating the need for braces altogether. Here are some additional tips on how to prevent braces from an early age:
- Start early! Proper gum and baby teeth care should begin in infancy, even before the first teeth erupt. For detailed info, read this guide on How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth provided by the ADA.
- Transition away from bottles and sippy cups ASAP. Because babies and toddlers tend to suck on bottles and sippy cups for prolonged periods, it’s best to transition to straw cups that do not have a suction force (which are better for both dental and orthodontic health) as soon as possible. Try to get rid of the bottle by age 1, and then let your baby use the sippy cup as a transitional device for about a month before switching to straw cups.
- Keep an eye out. As your child grows a bit older, look for these Problems to Watch for in Growing Children, and contact Dr. Dougherty if you see any of these issues developing.
- Visit the dentist and orthodontist. The ADA recommends taking small children to the dentist by age 1. The AAO recommends scheduling your child’s first orthodontic checkup no later than age 7.
Have questions about how to prevent braces? Wondering whether your kid needs braces? Check out our FAQs for new patients for more info. And contact us to schedule your child’s first orthodontic check-up.