Crooked teeth don't only affect a child's appearance. They can also affect their speech and make it harder for children to brush and floss, increasing their risk of oral health problems like tooth decay and gum disease. 
Genetics may have some influence on crooked teeth developing , so it’s important to know what signs to look for and take action sooner rather than later. Here are four of the most effective ways you can improve your child's chances of a straighter smile.
1. No more thumb sucking
Many toddlers take comfort in sucking their thumbs, but the sooner you can encourage them to break this habit, the better for them.
Frequent thumb sucking can damage their front teeth, their gums and the roof of their mouth, especially if it continues past the age of three . Sucking dummies and bottle feeding can be just as damaging when their teeth are developing .
To prevent your child from sucking their thumb, you first need to find out when they're most likely to do it. Is it when they're hungry? Bored? Tired? Knowing when that thumb's about to pop into their mouth, you can take action and wean them off the habit.
2. Teach good oral hygiene
If your child doesn't take good care of their teeth and gums, this can have an impact on their adult teeth later. They should have their first dental appointment as soon as their first tooth comes through , as this gives their dentist the chance to identify any problems early and to advise you on how to take the best care of their oral hygiene at home.
Your child will need your help brushing their teeth for the first few years, but as they get better at brushing themselves, you should monitor them to make sure they're doing it properly and for the right amount of time (two minutes, at least twice a day) . Their dentist may recommend an electric toothbrush as a novelty to encourage your child to brush their teeth properly.
3. Respond quickly to tooth loss
If your child loses a tooth in an accident or due to decay, you should make an appointment to see their dentist right away. A missing tooth can affect the surrounding healthy teeth, which are no longer supported on the side and may start to shift into the gap, becoming crooked .
You can prevent tooth loss by making sure your child develops good oral hygiene habits and that their teeth are protected during sports with a mouthguard . Accidents still happen, of course, but the sooner your child sees their dentist, the better.
Don't forget, if you're eligible for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS), your child can receive up to $1000 worth of dental services.
4. Catch it early
Keeping up with your child's regular dental appointments lets their dentist check that their teeth are developing as they should. Orthodontic treatments can begin in childhood, so your child may not need to wear braces for as long in their teens to straighten crooked teeth or correct a misaligned bite.
When oral health care is a normal part of your child's life from a young age, they may be less likely to have dental anxiety or need major treatment when they get older. This can set them up for good oral health for life.
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1. Friedman, Michael, “Dental Health With Crooked Teeth and Misaligned Bites”, WebMD, January 24th 2017
2. Children’s Orthodontics, 2018, Face Value Dental, https://www.facevaluedental.com/orthodontics-for-children
3. Looking after children’s teeth, 2014, Bupa, https://www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/health-information/az-health-information/looking-after-childrens-teeth#other
4. Dummies, 2018, Better Health Channel, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dummies
5. Kids – Your Dental Health, 2018, Australian Dental Association, https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Children-0-11/Kids
6. Missing teeth, 2018, Bupa, http://dental.bupa.com.au/treatments/missing-teeth
7. Mouthguards, 2018, Bupa, http://dental.bupa.com.au/treatments/mouthguards