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My child sucks his thumb/finger/pacifier. Should I be concerned?

Prolonged sucking exerts force on the teeth and on the bone that supports the teeth. If your child sucks a thumb, finger, pacifier, lips, or fabric such as clothing or a blanket beyond age 4, there could be unwanted consequences. Teeth may be pushed forward, an open bite may develop, and bone may become misshapen.

My child’s baby teeth are crowded. Is that OK?

No. This could be an early sign of something an orthodontist should monitor. You may wish to take your child to an AAO orthodontist for a check-up.

My child’s baby teeth have big spaces between them. Is that OK?

Yes. In general, space between baby teeth is a good thing. It indicates there should be room for permanent teeth to come in. But if you have concerns about your child’s teeth or jaws, check with an AAO orthodontist for an expert opinion. A referral is not required. Many AAO orthodontists provide free or low-cost initial visits.

When should I start brushing my child’s teeth?

Begin dental hygiene in infancy. Clean your baby’s gums with a soft, damp cloth after meals, and continue the practice as teeth begin to emerge. Help your toddler brush his teeth twice a day, and begin daily flossing when two teeth touch. Take your child to the dentist for a check-up after the first tooth appears, but no later than the first birthday. Keep up regular dental appointments so baby teeth stay healthy and in place until it’s time for permanent teeth to come in.

Why should we care about baby teeth if they are just going to fall out?

Baby teeth are important to your child’s development. Even though the time will come that they will fall out, they are far from “disposable.” Baby teeth, also called primary or deciduous teeth, contribute to your child’s facial development, as well as the ability to bite, chew and speak. Baby teeth hold space for the permanent teeth that succeed them. Even baby teeth can decay, so limit or avoid sugary and/or acidic liquids (regular and diet soda pop, fruit juices, sports drinks), especially before bedtime.

Why move baby teeth?

The purpose of early treatment is not moving baby teeth to improve their appearance. Rather, early treatment is done to create a healthy environment for permanent teeth that will be coming in. While baby teeth may be repositioned in preventive or interceptive orthodontic treatment, their movement is incidental. Baby teeth are there to hold space for permanent teeth, to help with facial development, to make it possible to bite and chew, and for clear speech.

If treatment is done while my child has some baby teeth, does that mean s/he is done with treatment?

Not necessarily. Sometimes preventive or interceptive orthodontic treatment is all that a patient needs. More often, though, patients will require a second phase of comprehensive orthodontic treatment after a child has most or all of their permanent teeth. This completes the tooth and jaw alignment that was started with a first phase of preventive or interceptive treatment.

Are braces used in early treatment?

When a child has early treatment (while most baby teeth are present), the type of treatment varies based on the kind of problem a child needs corrected. The goal of early treatment is to create a better environment for permanent teeth as they come in. Not all orthodontic treatment is accomplished with braces. 

For some patients, early treatment could consist of removal of a stubborn baby tooth, so that the succeeding permanent tooth can arrive in its proper place. Some patients may need help with how to position their tongue when they swallow, while others may need intervention to stop a thumb- or finger-sucking habit. These are sometimes treated with habit appliances. If a child’s upper jaw is too narrow, so that the permanent teeth do not have room to come in, treatment could consist of a palate expander to widen the jaw. Braces are often recommended to optimize tooth and jaw alignment after most or all of the permanent teeth are in. 

Your AAO orthodontist makes use of the full range of orthodontic appliances and will recommend the type of treatment he/she believes is best suited to your child and correcting his/her orthodontic problem

Will my child need early treatment?

Only a few orthodontic problems need correction while a child has baby teeth. In the event that a problem is detected, chances are your orthodontist will take a “wait-and-see” approach, and will check your child’s growth and development periodically. When the time is right for your child, orthodontic treatment can be

How much does a check-up cost?

Most AAO orthodontists offer examinations at no (or low) cost, and at no obligation.