Identifying and Addressing 6 Common Orthodontic Issues in Children

Catch orthodontic issues early.

Why orthodontic care matters?

As parents, nothing beats seeing our children flash their confident, bright smiles, but we also know that keeping our children’s smiles healthy requires dedication.

Along with excellent at-home dental care habits and regular six-month visits with a pediatric dentist, many kids can also benefit from orthodontic care. While most children won’t need braces until their adult teeth have arrived, in some cases, early intervention is the only way to stop bite alignment issues from getting worse.

Today, we will talk about six common orthodontic issues in children and explore efficient strategies to address them before it’s too late, or more complex treatment is needed in the future.

1. Crowding

Crowding occurs when there isn’t enough space in the jaw for all teeth to comfortably and correctly fit. This problem usually becomes apparent around age seven, when most children have a mix of baby and permanent teeth. Potential causes of crowding range from premature loss of baby teeth, disproportionate jaw to tooth size, or even genetic factors.

Without adequate room, teeth tend to drift out of place, leading to misalignment. These misplaced teeth not only cosmetically detract from your child’s smile but can also interfere with proper oral function, make oral hygiene more challenging, and result in an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Early detection through regular dental checkups is paramount in mitigating the effects of crowding. It allows for timely intervention when the jaw is still growing, and treatments can have the maximum impact. For children, treatment options primarily include braces to help correct alignment over time by applying steady pressure on the teeth, while expanders work by widening the jaw itself to create more space. 

2. Spacing

Spacing, unlike crowding, involves an excess of room in the jaw, leading to gaps or abnormal distances between the teeth. This issue commonly happens during childhood when primary (baby) teeth give way to permanent teeth. Factors that can contribute to spacing issues include early or late loss of baby teeth, small teeth, missing teeth, or habits like thumb-sucking.

The implications of abnormal spacing aren’t simply cosmetic. Despite the seemingly harmless nature of gaps, they can impact a child’s bite and speech development and lead to potential gum problems due to lack of protection by the teeth.

Addressing spacing issues early is vital and typically involves the use of braces for kids, retainers, or even dental bands, depending on the severity of the problem. Braces apply gentle pressure on the teeth to close spaces gradually, while retainers and dental bands help maintain the new tooth positions.

3. Crossbite 

A crossbite is a misalignment of the upper and lower teeth. Unlike a normal bite where upper teeth slightly overlap the lower ones, a crossbite has one or more teeth in reverse order. It’s categorized into two types: anterior crossbite (an underbite with lower front teeth ahead of the upper ones) and posterior crossbite (upper teeth too close to the cheek or lower teeth too close to the tongue).

Causes of a crossbite can vary, including genetic predisposition, delayed loss of baby teeth, irregular jaw size, or prolonged habits, such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. If left untreated, a crossbite can lead to serious complications, including abnormal tooth wear, gum disease due to increased gum recession, asymmetrical jaw growth, and difficulties with chewing and speech.

Early intervention is key in managing a crossbite effectively. Treatment options predominantly include orthodontic appliances, such as braces or aligners for kids, which help reposition the misaligned teeth to their correct position. Palatal expanders, which widen the upper jaw, can also be used to create more space for crowded teeth.

4. Overbite

An overbite is another common orthodontic issue in children, characterized by the upper front teeth excessively overlapping the lower front teeth when the mouth is closed. This can be a vertical overlap (overbite) or a horizontal one (overjet). It’s normal to have a slight overbite, but an excessive overbite can cause a misalignment of the jaws and teeth, leading to various dental problems.

If left untreated, an excessive overbite can have several consequences, including improper functioning of front teeth, problems with chewing and speech, increased wear of the lower front teeth, and even damage to the palate from the upper front teeth. Thankfully, an overbite can typically be treated with braces. 

5. Underbite

An underbite is a type of malocclusion or misalignment where the lower teeth noticeably protrude past the upper teeth. This condition often results from disproportionate jaw size, such as the lower jaw being too large or the upper jaw too small.

The complications of an untreated underbite are numerous. It can lead to difficulties in chewing and speaking, excessive wear of the tooth enamel, alterations in facial appearance, and even breathing issues. It might also negatively impact a child’s self-esteem due to the perceived aesthetic issue.

For treatment, similar to overbites, orthodontic appliances, like kids’ braces, are often employed to correct an underbite. In some cases, corrective jaw surgery might be needed. Recognizing and addressing orthodontic issues, such as underbite at an early age, is crucial. Consistent dental checkups can help detect any abnormalities promptly, allowing timely intervention and preventing any long-term complications. Therefore, parents are encouraged to ensure their children have regular dental visits.

6. Open bite

An open bite is another common orthodontic issue seen in children, where a noticeable gap exists between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are closed. This abnormal bite alignment can lead to various difficulties, including challenges in biting, chewing, and speech impairments. 

The effects of an untreated open bite can significantly impact a child’s daily life and overall dental health. It may result in speech difficulties, affect eating habits, and potentially influence the child’s facial aesthetics. These issues could lead to decreased self-esteem among children.

Early detection of an open bite is essential in identifying these problems at the initial stages and can recommend suitable treatment options. Orthodontic appliances, such as braces for kids, are usually the first line of treatment. In resistant cases, or when the open bite is due to skeletal issues, surgical interventions may be considered. 

Early orthodontic treatment and more at Must Love Kids.

Prioritizing your child’s orthodontic health is essential in safeguarding their overall well-being and confidence. Recognizing the signs of orthodontic issues and following through with the recommended treatment can significantly improve your child’s quality of life.

Must Love Kids is committed to providing top-notch orthodontic treatment for kids, alongside comprehensive dental care that caters to all their dental needs. With our dedicated team of experts, we merge advanced technology with a gentle touch to provide the best care for your children. For the best kids’ dentists in Vancouver, Washington, look no further than Must Love Kids. Schedule an appointment and ensure a bright, beautiful smile for your child.