We hear this question a lot from parents. It’s common for children’s teeth to seem misaligned as their permanent teeth begin to erupt. However, a crooked-looking grin doesn’t necessarily mean the teeth are going to be maloccluded (misaligned) and require braces. Some children have only mild issues with overcrowded or overlapping teeth, while others have more serious problems—such as narrow palate or bite issues.
If your child’s teeth appear out of alignment to you, bring him or her in to Leiker Orthodontics and we will assess you’re his or her teeth. Once we have taken x-rays, examined the teeth, and considered the age and projected growth of the patient, we will provide a written diagnosis of any potential problems.
Common Orthodontic Problems in Children
Few people are born with perfect alignment. Most of your tooth placement is dependent on genetic factors, though some problems can be caused by behaviors. For example, thumb-sucking or tongue thrusting can cause the front teeth to push forward. Approximately 75 percent of all kids between the ages of 10-13 have issues that would benefit from braces. These problems can range from mild to severe, so it’s best to see a professional if you suspect your child suffers from an alignment problem.
Teeth that are too far apart or too close together can cause problems and should be corrected. Overcrowded teeth can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, as it’s very difficult to clean between teeth that overlap. Teeth that are too far apart should also be corrected, especially when they are the result of a missing tooth. When teeth have wide gaps, this can affect how stable the teeth are and they may shift and negatively affect a child’s bite. Correcting spacing issues may seem like a cosmetic correction, but it’s a great way to preserve a child’s long-term oral health.
The term “bite” refers to how the top and bottom teeth fit together when you bite down. If your child has a severe overbite or under bite, you may have already noticed this—and these conditions almost always require braces. Untreated, bite conditions can lead to long-term damage to the teeth and make you vulnerable to oral health problems. In severe cases, bite problems can lead to TMJ disorder or problems with speaking, chewing, and even breathing. Other bite conditions include cross bite, overjet and open bite.
When teeth erupt in unusual positions, such as above the other teeth, this is called abnormal eruption. On its own, this doesn’t usually require braces, but it rarely occurs on its own. It can often be corrected with a minor oral surgical procedure before orthodontic treatment with braces.
Early Orthodontic Intervention
In some cases, early orthodontic treatments can be used to prevent malocclusion. Such treatments take advantage of your child’s natural growth process and make room for teeth by expanding the palate. If your child has cross bite, crowding, or impacted teeth, he or she may benefit from wearing a palatal expander to make more room in the mouth. Early orthodontic treatments can begin as young as age 7 and they don’t mean a child will get braces just yet. Children often need a second stage of treatment (with braces) to make sure the teeth reach their proper placement. Treatment with braces is often faster and less traumatic when early interventions have been used.
Can Children Get Invisalign?
Invisalign is not typically recommended for children, although it can be appropriate for teens. If the level of malocclusion is mild-to-moderate, and does not require bite correction or vertical repositioning, kids can get Invisalign as soon as their jaws are grown.
Not all teens that meet these requirements should get Invisalign, however. Since Invisalign requires a high level of compliance, it shouldn’t be used with young people unless they are highly motivated. Forcing Invisalign on a teenager who is not committed to it can result in ineffective treatment and thousands of wasted dollars (at best) or a mouth full of cavities and gum disease (at worst).
Visit an Orthodontist to Find Out Whether Your Child Will Need Braces
Ultimately, only an orthodontist can give you an accurate assessment of your child’s potential alignment problems. If you’ve seen a dentist or orthodontist already but aren’t sure about the diagnosis, visit Leiker Orthodontics and Dr. Brad Leiker will give you a second opinion.