Common Bite Problems That Braces Can Fix
Treating Malocclusion in Children
Crooked teeth or a misaligned bite are two frequently seen dental issues in children of all ages, especially in the early developmental stage as baby teeth are lost and adult teeth begin to erupt. Braces are the most common treatment option to solve cases of malocclusion.
Here are answers to questions you might have about malocclusion in children and the use of braces to treat it.
What is malocclusion?
Malocclusion is the medical term for a misaligned bite, also called a bad or poor bite. The way the upper and lower teeth meet is referred to as the bite. A normal bite means the upper and lower teeth are fairly straight, with the upper teeth very slightly forward of the lower teeth. An abnormal bite occurs when the upper or lower teeth are crooked, tilted, and don’t meet properly when the mouth is closed.
Why does malocclusion occur?
Malocclusion happens in children for many different reasons, some of which aren’t necessarily within anyone’s control. For example, crowding can occur because your child naturally has a smaller jaw that isn’t developing fast enough to make space for adult teeth. The opposite can occur as well with a large jaw causing gaps between teeth.
Behavior and oral health can also cause malocclusion. Some examples include premature loss of baby teeth due to tooth decay, prolonged pacifier use, prolonged thumb-sucking habits, tongue thrusting while swallowing, and habitual open-mouth breathing.
Parents should know that a naturally straight smile is rare. If your child has developed malocclusion, this isn’t because of anything you did or didn’t do. In fact, a child having a perfect smile is far rarer than one with a mild to moderate malocclusion!
What are the different types of “bad bites”?
Yes! Malocclusion comes in many forms. Here are seven of the most common types of bad bites.
The teeth on the lower jaw sit in front of the teeth on the upper jaw.
2. Overbite (Deep Bite)
The teeth on the upper jaw sit far in front of the teeth on the lower jaw. From a front view, the lower teeth may not even be visible with the mouth closed.
This is similar to underbites and overbites, with the upper or lower teeth crossing over one another. Crossbites typically affect teeth alignment rather than jaw alignments.
4. Open Bite
The back teeth meet while the front teeth don’t when the mouth is closed. This is often caused by habitual behavior, such as prolonged thumb-sucking or pacifier use.
5. Crowded Bite
Crowded, overlapped, or staggered teeth are usually caused by a lack of space in the jaw.
6. Spaced Teeth
This is characterized by teeth with abnormal gaps between them, usually caused by missing teeth or a naturally large jaw. In some cases, the teeth may also be undersized.
7. Protruding Teeth
His refers to front teeth that protrude outward (i.e. “buck teeth”). This is usually accompanied by an overbite.
Are braces necessary for treatment?
Most cases of malocclusion are cosmetic in nature, meaning your child’s teeth might look crooked but their oral health isn’t suffering. In cases of moderate to severe malocclusion, your child may experience teeth or jaw pain, permanent tooth damage, pediatric periodontitis, or trouble speaking and chewing.
Braces, and perhaps the addition of other orthodontic appliances, are necessary to treat a malocclusion. There is no other way to straighten teeth or realign a child’s bite. Even in a case of cosmetic malocclusion, braces are often still recommended by dentists, as a straight smile is often a boon to your child’s future as an adult and will make caring for their smile easier.
How long will my child need to wear braces?
There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to estimating how long your child may need to wear braces. For a very minor malocclusion, treatment time could be less than a year. For severe cases, treatment may take a few years. On average, the typical child will wear braces for 18 to 24 months, followed by the lifetime use of a retainer afterward.
Interceptive treatment may extend treatment time into two phases. The first phase is early orthodontic care that may take place when your child is as young as six or seven. Space maintainers are common orthodontic appliances used in this first phase to make space in a child’s smile if they have a small jaw. At a later time, around ages 10 to 14, your child will then have braces applied.
What’s the first step for getting my child braces?
An orthodontic evaluation should be scheduled by your child’s seventh birthday or if you see that your child’s bite seems to be abnormal in any way. Children’s smiles develop rapidly, and it’s possible that if it’s been six months or more since your child’s last visit, their teeth could be showing early signs of malocclusion.
Dr. Naik at River Walk Dental welcomes families and children of all ages. She can perform orthodontic evaluations for new patients and monitor the bite development of her established young patients during routine checkups. You can book an appointment for your child today by calling our Flower Mound office or requesting a visit online.