Orthodontic work can be a tremendous expense for your child’s teeth, yet the cosmetic and dental health benefits that orthodontic work offer can also be tremendous. While much of how your child’s teeth grow in is dependent on genetics and other factors outside of your control, there are some things you can do to help encourage straighter teeth alignment in your child. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Avoid Pulling Out Teeth Early

Pulling out loose baby teeth prematurely can be a major cause of heightened misalignment of permanent teeth in children. One purpose of baby teeth is to hold a place in the gumline for when adult teeth are ready to come in, and when a baby tooth is removed prematurely, other teeth might move into that space, forcing the adult tooth underneath to grow in out of alignment. If your child likes to wiggle loose teeth, make sure he or she does not do so vigorously. And if your child happens to lose a baby tooth prematurely due to some sort of accident, a space maintainer might be an option for your child. This is something to discuss with your dentist.

Discourage Thumb Sucking

It is estimated that up to 90% of infants suck their thumbs, and most children naturally end the habit between the ages of two and four. If after this point you notice that your child is still sucking his or her thumb, it’s important to discourage the habit because of the possible dental repercussions it might pose—especially as permanent teeth begin to come in. Thumb sucking over time can cause problems with tooth alignment and even mouth growth, resulting in an overbite in some children. Some ways to help your child end a habit of thumb sucking include helping to alleviate anxiety, commending your child for the days when they don’t suck their thumb, and explaining the benefits of quitting thumb sucking.

Wean Off of the Pacifier

On a similar note, a child using a pacifier beyond the age of three or four can also contribute to improper teeth alignment, with upper teeth even tipping forward towards the lip. If you notice extended pacifier use in your child, especially when it comes time for permanent teeth to start coming in, be sure to discuss this with your dentist, who can examine your child’s teeth and jaw for alignment issues.