5 Dental Problems that Can Result from Malocclusion
Learn why resolving malocclusion is so important.
Growing up is full of milestones and rites of passage, and it’s a joy to watch your child reach each of them. When it comes to dentistry, undergoing an orthodontic evaluation and receiving treatment if your child needs it is a major rite of passage—and it’s one with a very real purpose! By resolving malocclusions (misaligned teeth) and straightening your child’s teeth, orthodontic treatments like braces are famous for their ability to improve patients’ self-confidence and self-image. These are incredibly valuable benefits that will follow your child for a lifetime, but they’re not the only lifelong benefits that orthodontic treatment provides.
Malocclusion can contribute to or cause many oral health issues, including several that can cause your child to lose teeth if they aren’t identified and treated in time. As a result, resolving malocclusion helps prevent these issues, playing a role in helping to protect your child’s oral health for a lifetime. If this is your first time guiding any of your children through orthodontic treatment, however, you might not know much about malocclusions. To help you understand them and why treating them is so important, we’ve put together a guide on malocclusion and the oral health issues it can cause!
What is malocclusion?
Malocclusion is the official term for an uneven bite and misaligned or poorly spaced teeth. This can include a range of issues, including:
- Open bite.
- Crooked teeth.
- Too much space between teeth.
Our teeth and jaws are designed to work together to perform a range of daily tasks like eating and speaking, so when they don’t line up properly, it can lead to a range of oral health issues. Even crooked or poorly spaced teeth can lead to oral health issues if they aren’t addressed.
What can happen if malocclusion is ignored?
1. Tooth Decay
Issues like crowded teeth, teeth that are too spaced out, and crooked teeth all create extra nooks and crannies between your child’s teeth that make it harder for them to brush and floss their teeth properly even when they’re trying their best. Having a thorough oral hygiene routine is an incredibly important part of preventing oral health issues like cavities, but when your child can’t clean their teeth properly, it allows bacteria to thrive in certain areas. Plaque, tartar, and food debris can build up in hard-to-reach places, leading to an increased risk of dental caries.
2. Gum Disease
If your child is having trouble brushing and flossing their teeth thoroughly due to their malocclusion, they’re not just at an increased risk of cavities—they’re also at an increased risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gums caused by oral bacteria and it’s incredibly easy to miss at home, especially during its earliest phase, called gingivitis. There are, however, several symptoms you can look out for, including gums that bleed easily, are swollen, puffy, or have darkened in color, as well as persistently bad breath.
When it’s left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, which is a much more severe form of gum disease where bacteria make their way beneath the gum line and begin attacking the tooth roots and supporting structures of your child’s teeth. Even periodontitis is easy to miss at home because it’s often painless until it is very severe, but it can lead to permanent damage to your child’s teeth and gums, potentially leading to tooth loss.
When your child’s jaw is misaligned, the resulting uneven bite can cause instability that prevents their jaw from functioning at its best. This can put more strain on the joints and muscles of their jaw and increases the likelihood that your child will develop bruxism, which is when they begin habitually clenching and grinding their teeth. Teeth clenching and grinding is often an unconscious habit that can affect your child when they’re awake or when they’re asleep, so they may not even realize that they’re doing it.
Despite this, bruxism can have a very real impact on your child’s oral health. It can lead to dental injuries, including chipped, cracked, or broken teeth. Over time, it can also cause issues like gum recession and worn-down teeth.
4. Loose Teeth
Severe cavities, gum disease, and bruxism can all potentially cause severe enough damage to your child’s teeth to cause one or more to begin feeling loose over time. A loose adult tooth might feel final, but it’s not always! If you catch it early, Dr. Mo or Dr. G might still be able to save your child’s tooth. This is why it’s so important to schedule an appointment with your pediatric dentist as soon as you notice an issue with your child’s oral health, including a loose tooth that you don’t think should be loose.
5. Jaw Pain
Even if your child doesn’t have bruxism, the extra strain that an uneven bite often places on your child’s jaw can cause jaw pain. When chewing is difficult or painful, they’re more likely to be pickier about what or how much they’re willing to eat. This can affect your child’s nutrition, which is especially important when they’re still growing. Additionally, jaw pain can trigger a butterfly effect of other symptoms, including frequent headaches or earaches, lockjaw, and stiff or sore muscles in your child’s jaw, face, neck, shoulders, and back.
How do braces treat malocclusion?
Thankfully, none of these issues are inevitable or untreatable! Treating malocclusion straightens your child’s teeth and aligns their bite, making their teeth easier to clean thoroughly and making their bite comfortable and natural. This helps them prevent future oral health issues, like cavities and gum disease, and can help improve or eliminate existing issues, like jaw pain or bruxism.
Braces are a phase 2 orthodontic treatment that consists of brackets that are placed on each of your child’s teeth and connected by wires and bands, all of which work together to treat malocclusion by applying gentle pressure to your child’s teeth. Your child will visit their dentist regularly to have their braces adjusted, which gradually increases the pressure on their teeth. Over time, this slowly shifts their teeth into a carefully planned position that’s ideal for your child’s jaw, allowing it to function at its best!
Must Love Kids Pediatric Dentistry can set your child on a lifelong path of oral health.
Once you understand all of the oral health issues that malocclusion can cause, it’s easy to see why braces for kids are so vital! They set your child up for success by helping to protect their teeth for a lifetime. If you’d like to learn more about braces for kids, the different phases of orthodontic treatments, or pediatric dentistry in Vancouver, WA, we can help! Feel free to schedule a consultation for you and your little one with Dr. Mo at any time!