The development of the mouth, airway, and jaw begins at an incredibly young age. After years of extensive monitoring and research, it is now evident that babies who use pacifiers and bottles into childhood frequently require more dental work and orthodontics to correct the positioning of their teeth. Additionally, studies have shown that these devices may also cause an increased risk of developing airway issues and sleep-disordered breathing patterns.
Dentists and orthodontists work hard to educate parents of young children about what they can do to prevent future dental issues from happening to their child. While certain smile traits are genetic, there may be some steps you can take from infancy to help prevent your child from needing braces in the future.
Breastfeed Until 12 to 24 Months of Age
Breastfeeding has been shown as a critical piece in preventing the need for braces in children. The movement of the tongue during breastfeeding is part of what helps the mouth develop fully. Additionally, the nutrients in breast milk are far superior to any formula you can find, and breast milk has been proven to have healing properties that are beneficial to a child’s health in more ways than one.
Stop Pacifier Use at Six Months Old
To prevent future dental issues, a child should be weaned from using a pacifier by the age of two at the latest. However, some pediatricians are now recommending the reduction or stopping pacifier use as early as six months. The argument states that when a pacifier is used past six months, it begins to change the shape of the mouth and negatively impacts proper oral development.
Encourage Proper Jaw Development With Food
By 4-6 months of age, babies can begin to eat solid foods safely. This age can vary from child to child, depending on their gut lining formation.
Once your baby has been cleared by their pediatrician to begin eating solid foods, the types of foods you choose for your child are critical. Encouraging some chewing or mashing is essential for the proper development of the jaw muscles. Introducing your baby to foods like avocados, bananas, eggs, and steamed vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes will help their jaw muscles to develop.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Proper nutrition is critical, if not the most crucial factor in ensuring your child’s mouth continues to develop correctly. Always avoid processed foods high in sugar and grains, and encourage children to eat a diet that is full of real fruits and vegetables and proteins.
Avoid Bad Oral Habits As Much as Possible
For many children, sucking their thumb or other fingers won’t cause any long-term damage. However, for others who thumb suck past the age of five, it can cause real problems that require orthodontic treatment.
Common problems caused by thumb and finger sucking include:
- Protruding upper front teeth. Occasionally, the formation of the jaw can be affected by finger or thumb sucking. The upper jaw and teeth will develop in a protrusive relationship to the rest of the face.
- Open bite. The upper and lower front teeth do not overlap when the back teeth are together. The shape of the opening between the upper and lower front teeth may match the child’s finger or thumb exactly.
- Crossbite. The upper jaw’s formation is too narrow for the lower jaw, so the upper and lower teeth do not fit together correctly. This seems to occur as a result of the flexing of the cheek muscles during sucking.
- Tipped back lower front teeth. The pressure of the thumb forces the lower incisor teeth to tip toward the tongue.
A Straight Smile Is Beneficial In More Ways Than One
Helping your child achieve a straight smile with braces has multiple health benefits. Orthodontic treatment can improve a child’s speech, sleeping patterns, eating habits, and potentially eliminate the need for future dental procedures caused by misaligned teeth.
If your child is over the age of 7, and they have not had their smile evaluated by an orthodontist, call Thomas Orthodontics today to schedule an exam.