Most babies get their first primary or milk teeth between the ages of six and 12 months (1). The moment you see the little one’s first teeth, you are likely to check their alignment. Some babies may show crooked teeth, which correct by themselves gradually. However, the baby’s teeth continue to stay crooked in some cases and erupt in a malaligned way.
There are usually several reasons why a baby may develop crooked teeth. Read on to learn about the various causes of crooked teeth and how to rectify them.
Why Causes Crooked Teeth In Babies?
Below are some reasons why a baby could develop crooked teeth.
- Prolonged thumb-sucking, pacifier use and other improper oral habits: Babies often exercise their sucking reflex to self-soothe through the use of a pacifier or a thumb. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies must stop pacifier use and thumb-sucking by the age of two years (2). Babies who continue with these habits have a higher risk of developing crooked teeth since constant sucking exerts pressure on the teeth, causing them to become crooked. Other improper oral habits like mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, lip biting and lip sucking are also associated with a higher prevalence of malaligned teeth in the primary dentition.
- Dental problems: Certain dental anomalies and gum problems may increase the risk of crooked teeth in babies (3). Babies with gum-related conditions, such as Epstein pearls, could be at a higher risk of developing crooked teeth.
- Early dental caries: Poor dental hygiene in babies could cause cavities in existing milk teeth. It could cause other milk teeth and permanent teeth to emerge crooked. Not cleaning the baby’s teeth after a meal and baby bottle tooth decay are some of the causes of dental caries leading to crooked teeth.
- Genetic factors: Some babies could be at a higher risk of crooked teeth due to a family history of it (4). Genes also influence the jaw’s shape, and a baby with a smaller jaw could have less space for teeth, causing their misalignment.
- Injuries: Early childhood injuries and jaw trauma could affect gums and the underlying teeth. It could lead to crooked primary and permanent teeth.
What To Do If Your Baby’s Teeth Are Crooked?
Crooked teeth can only be realigned by a dental professional. Therefore, consult a pediatric dentist or orthodontist, especially those who specialize in correcting malocclusion in children. Early intervention can help prevent permanent misalignment, including crooked permanent teeth in the long run.
A dentist may check for possible causes and suggest interventions. The treatment would usually involve avoiding or treating the underlying causes. In severe cases, the doctor may suggest waiting until the baby is old enough to undergo orthodontic treatments, such as dental braces (5).
How To Prevent Crooked Teeth In Babies?
Parents could try the following measures to prevent crooked teeth in infants.
- Stop pacifier use and thumb-sucking by the age of two years. Most babies give up the habit earlier, but some may continue with it. It is usually best to stop offering a pacifier to a baby once they are 12 months old. Discourage thumb-sucking through instructions or distractions, such as providing the toddler with toys to calm them down. Consult a pediatrician if your toddler continues thumb-sucking even after the age of two years.
- Clean the baby’s teeth regularly. The American Dental Association recommends cleaning your baby’s teeth right from the moment they get their first tooth (6). Use a clean, wet gauze cloth to wipe the baby’s gums once a day (7). As soon as the teeth appear above the gum line, until the age of three, it is recommended that you brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day with a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste around the size of a grain of rice (8). For children three to six years old, use a soft-bristle toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste to clean the baby’s teeth.
- Avoid letting the baby sleep with a bottle. It can cause formula or breast milk to pool in the mouth, causing bacteria to damage the teeth and the gums (9). It could lead to baby bottle caries, which may increase the risk of crooked teeth.
- Have regular dental checkups. It is essential to have periodic dental checkups for your baby for early detection of dental anomalies, such as Epstein pearls or jaw issues. Early orthodontic treatment could prevent several complications, including crooked teeth.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do crooked baby teeth straighten out?
Sometimes, teeth may erupt in a crooked way but straighten out eventually. However, not all crooked teeth straighten out by themselves and require treatment from an orthodontist.
2. Do sippy cups cause crooked teeth?
Letting the baby sleep with sippy cups or nursing bottles containing milk or purees could lead to cavities, which increase the risk of dental caries. These could eventually increase the risk of crooked teeth.
Crooked teeth in babies could be aesthetically unpleasing and cause other long-term issues. Prevention is easy by observing good dental hygiene and regular checkups. If you notice crooked teeth in your baby, do not hesitate to consult a dentist. Early intervention can help improve the teeth’s alignment and avoid long-term complications.
2. Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Why are my child’s teeth crooked?; Australian Society of Orthodontists
4. Why are teeth crooked?; Orthodontics Australia
5. Benefits of early treatment; Orthodontics Australia
6. Baby Teeth; American Dental Association
7. Dental: Teeth and Gum Care for Infants and Toddlers; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
8. Babies and toddlers (0-3 years); Royal Dental Hospital Melbourne
9. Nursing Caries (Nursing Bottle Caries); Stanford Children’s Health