New parents usually look forward to watching their baby's first set of teeth come in, but sometimes they are horrified by what they see. Baby teeth are notorious for emerging crooked, oddly shaped or even sideways, and the first sight of a wayward tooth can be enough to send parents into a panic. But do these early abnormalities really indicate problems later on?
Why Baby Teeth Grow in Crooked
Children grow and lose their teeth at very different rates. Some have their teeth come in all at once, while others only gain a new tooth every month or so. Early teeth that come in on their own are more prone to crookedness, since the gums are still soft and the tooth has nothing around to brace it. These loner teeth are typically corrected as others emerge around them and push them straight. In other cases, such as crookedness caused by sucking thumbs or pacifiers, the teeth remain crooked until they fall out.
What Crooked Baby Teeth Mean for Permanent Teeth
The good news is that baby teeth are often a poor indicator of dental health later on. The straightest, whitest teeth in infancy can still come in crowded, and the most gap-toothed child can have a perfect smile as an adult. If anything, losing those crooked teeth too early is more likely to lead to flaws. A baby tooth that is pulled before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt will leave an empty space for the other teeth to invade, causing the permanent teeth to eventually come in with nowhere to grow.
What You Can Tell From a Child's Smile
Because children's smiles are influenced by so many factors, there is no way to guarantee how permanent teeth will grow. As a parent, you should hope to see teeth that are cavity-free with plenty of room to spread out, and focus on teaching healthy habits to your child. If you are worried about your child's development, don't hesitate to seek the opinion of an experienced pediatric dentist. In most situations, there is no reason to worry until the permanent teeth show signs of trouble.
How to Help Permanent Teeth Come in Straight
There are a few steps you can take to help ensure that your child's teeth have every opportunity to come in straight. When your child loses a tooth too early, installing space maintainers can keep that spot open for the permanent tooth below. Also discourage sucking behavior with a bottle, pacifier or thumb after the age of three. By promoting strong dental hygiene and taking care of potential problems quickly, you may be able to reduce or eliminate the need for orthodontics as your child grows older.