Oral Health and Genetic Risk Factors

Is It Possible to Prevent a Child Needing Braces?

Orthodontic problems are very common in children, causing many young people to rely on braces to straighten their teeth during their teenage years. However, a number of dentists believe that there are things parents can do to promote normal orthodontic development in kids. Here are a few top tips that could help to decrease or eliminate your child's need for braces.

1. Breastfeed Your Baby

According to some dentists, breastfeeding can help an infant's mouth to develop normally. When children latch onto the nipple, they must use the muscles in the tongue to suck out the milk. This action exerts forces on the developing palate that could widen it, giving teeth space to come through with a normal alignment. Of course, not all mothers are able to breastfeed until their child is fully weaned, but even a short period of breastfeeding could help with the development of your child's bite.

2. Give Chewy Foods

Weaning your baby onto solid foods is another important part of encouraging healthy oral development. Although it is a good idea to start with very soft foods, such as well-cooked, mashed vegetables, incorporating chewy foods can be beneficial as soon as the child has its first teeth. Try giving steamed vegetables and fruits chopped into small pieces to give your baby something to chew on. The forces exerted by chewing promote healthy development of the jaw, which is the structure that supports the teeth and gums.

3. Avoid Using Pacifiers

Many parents use pacifiers to help their baby settle at night or during a nap. However, dentists recommend avoiding this habit. Sucking on a pacifier can lead to overjet, a condition that causes the front upper incisors to protrude in front of the top arc of teeth. If your child uses a pacifier, try to gradually break the habit by limiting the time they are allowed to suck on it each day.

4. Attend Regular Dental Checkups

Some orthodontic conditions cannot be prevented. However, early diagnosis and timely treatment may limit the amount of time that your child needs to spend wearing braces. Be sure that your child attends regular dental checkups, during which the dentist can check for signs of tooth decay and gum disease as well as assessing the alignment of the teeth. If there are problems with your child's bite or tooth alignment, your general family dentist can refer your child to a children's orthodontist for treatment.