Orthodontic problems can be a very important part of your child’s overall healthcare needs. Orthodontic treatment helps create a normal and functional bite by correcting any issues with tooth alignment or jaw position. These treatments can be costly but are often necessary to correct serious issues.
Keep reading for a brief overview of some of the most common orthodontic problems in children and how to fix them.
An abnormal eruption is the emergence of a tooth through the gums in the wrong place. For example, the canine teeth may come in higher in the gum line than they should — above the other teeth. These eruptions can create a situation where a tooth is blocked and cannot erupt through the gums, also known as an impacted tooth. These issues should be addressed as soon as possible so as not to affect the alignment of the adjacent teeth. Treatment options include extraction, oral surgery, oral appliances, and braces or aligners.
Crowding can be a common issue in young children, especially when baby teeth are being lost and adult teeth are coming in. Crowding occurs when there is not enough space in your child’s mouth for their teeth to fit properly. Whether the jaw is too small, the teeth are too big, or too many teeth are coming in, early intervention can help prevent more serious problems later. If there is not enough space in your child’s mouth, erupting teeth may twist, stick out, drop back, or overlap. This can cause pain, tooth damage, and trouble chewing. Crowding can be prevented or corrected using orthodontic treatment such as braces or by performing extractions when necessary.
As the opposite of tooth crowding, spacing occurs when your child’s teeth are too far apart. As with crowding, the earlier the issue is identified and treated, the better. While some gaps between your child’s teeth can be considered normal, gaps larger than 2 mm between baby teeth may indicate a problem. And as with many other orthodontic issues, treatment such as braces or aligners can help.
A crossbite is another common type of malocclusion (or “bad bite”) that occurs when the upper and lower teeth don’t come together properly when the mouth is closed. A crossbite occurs when some of the upper teeth sit behind the lower teeth. It is different from an underbite in that only some of the bottom teeth are affected, whereas with an underbite, the entire lower jaw sits in front of the upper jaw. Crossbites are usually the result of a misalignment of the upper and lower jaw. A palatal expander can help widen the upper jaw in children and is the most common treatment to resolve this issue.
An underbite occurs when the lower front teeth sit ahead of the upper front teeth when biting down. Underbites are usually caused by an undergrowth of the upper jaw or an overgrowth of the lower jaw. If left untreated, a severe underbite can lead to issues such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Treatment for an underbite may involve jaw surgery, but early intervention can help. Braces are the most common way to correct an underbite and move your child’s teeth into the correct position.
When the upper teeth protrude forward over the lower teeth, this is classified as an overbite. This issue is quite common and affects approximately 70% of all kids. While most overbites will self-correct as your child grows, an orthodontist evaluation by age 7 is a wise idea. Left untreated, overbites can cause excessive dental wear, tooth decay, jaw discomfort, and other problems.
An orthodontic appliance (such as a Herbst Appliance or a Carriere Distalizer) can help correct moderate to severe overbites by positioning and moving the lower jaw forward. Other possible treatment options include palate expanders, braces, aligners, and tooth extractions. As with other orthodontic issues, you will want to begin treatment as soon as possible, while the bones are still growing and can be more easily manipulated.
An open bite is when your child’s teeth fail to properly line up and touch, resulting in a gap between the upper and lower teeth even when the jaw is shut. It is often the result of genetic skeletal issues, extensive thumb sucking, or tongue thrusting. Many children experience open bites while their baby teeth are still coming in, and the issue will self-correct in most children.
Left untreated, an open bite can cause tooth decay, premature wear of tooth enamel, gum disease, speech impediments, biting and chewing problems, and jaw disorders. In addition to the use of oral appliances, myofunctional therapy can help close an open bite. Myofunctional therapy consists of performing a series of exercises that retain the facial muscles and help your child’s tongue and teeth return to their proper position.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s oral health, it’s time to schedule an appointment with their dentist or one of our board-certified pediatricians.