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Baby Basics

Why Are Baby’s Teeth Growing In Crooked?

Find out if you should be worried about baby's teeth growing in crooked.

Crooked teeth are usually genetic, but not in the way you might think. Sometimes, a child inherits her father’s larger teeth and her mother’s smaller jaw — which may cause some trouble. If that’s the case, when the teeth begin to grow in, they start fighting for position because there isn’t enough space for them in the arch of the mouth. That can lead to crowding.

Another reason for crooked teeth might be baby’s habit of sticking her fingers in her mouth. If baby’s a thumb-sucker, she’ll put her thumb tightly between the upper and lower teeth when her mouth is closed. That places pressure on the upper front teeth and pushes them out. At the same time, the lower teeth are pushed back into the mouth, which can cause crowding. In some other cases, extra teeth develop, and crowding occurs because there isn’t enough room.

If you’re seeing spaces between baby’s teeth, know that that’s a good thing. If the teeth are all crowded, then it’s very likely that when baby gets permanent teeth, they’ll be crowded too, and she’ll benefit from getting braces. You don’t have to wait for the adult teeth to come in to do something about crowding. Even at a young age, your baby’s teeth can be analyzed for deficiencies in arch length so treatment can be started. Children as young as four years old could get a removable retainer-like appliance that helps guide the growth of the arches in the mouth so that they can better accommodate the teeth size. Early arch expansion can make orthodontic treatment of the permanent teeth easier and more stable, if it’s even needed at all.

Want to know about caring for baby’s teeth? Get baby used to dental hygiene even before she gets her first teeth. Once a day, you can gently and carefully swab the inside of her mouth with a moistened gauze square or a small washcloth wrapped around your index finger. That way, once the first tooth comes in, your baby will already be used to this routine. You can continue to clean the brand-new tooth this way until baby has a few more teeth — that’s when you can introduce the toothbrush. The most popular brush for kids in my practice is the FireFly because it has a flashing light that tells you when 60 seconds (the recommended brushing time for kids) is up for each arch. As for using toothpaste, most people believe that baby can’t use it because she won’t be able to spit it out. You can actually use a tiny amount of mildly flavored toothpaste with fluoride — a small amount of toothpaste won’t be a problem to ingest. More families are using a xylitol gel to swab baby’s mouth and to brush with — you can use it instead of toothpaste. When your child gets older, make sure xylitol is one of the ingredients in her toothpaste for extra bacteria protection. Xylitol is a natural sugar that’s good for teeth because it can reduce cavity-causing bacteria by 95 percent with correct usage.

Until your child is old enough to brush by herself, be sure to do it for her twice each day. Make sure to gently brush the inside and outside of each of your baby’s teeth, and try to also brush the tongue where bacteria collect. If baby’s teeth are crowded or are contacting one another, it’s also important to floss her teeth to make sure bacteria don’t get stuck. Try floss picks — they’re surprisingly easy to use on babies.

Plus, more from The Bump:

How Do I Clean Baby's Teeth?

Teething Chart

Dealing With Teething

By Chris Kammer, DDS, Lifetime Family Dentistry, and president of The American Academy for Oral Systemic Health