How To Recognize And Treat Your Child’s Misaligned Jaw

It can be a slippery slope between a child’s toothy, lopsided smile and a painfully misaligned jaw. As parents ourselves, we know that you want nothing but the best for your child, but how can you tell when your child needs orthodontic intervention? Knowing how to recognize and treat your child’s misaligned jaw, alongside other orthodontic issues, is a common point of concern for parents, and we here at Decatur Orthodontics are here to help.

Though Dr. Oral Francis customizes every treatment plan to meet the specific needs of the child that he is treating, there are several common conditions that he’ll be looking for during your child’s initial evaluation. It can be helpful to outline these so parents understand how orthodontics can address your child’s oral challenges! Some of the orthodontic issues we see most often in young children can be found below, so you can learn how trusting your child’s smile to an experienced orthodontist who can recognize and treat their misaligned jaw can set them up for a lifetime of smiles. 

Crowded teeth

Of course, healthy teeth and gums are essential to your child’s oral health, but your child may struggle to brush and floss effectively if they have crowded teeth. A crowded mouth may present a challenge to oral hygiene and increase the chances of tooth decay and cavities. 

If your child has crowded teeth, orthodontic treatment can move them into more optimal positions over time, resulting in a more evenly spaced smile that’s easier to clean! Treatment can also lessen general facial tension and relieve chewing or speech difficulties. 

Gapped teeth

Gaps between teeth are very common and can develop for a variety of reasons: genetics, thumb or finger sucking, extended bottle or pacifier use, and even gum disease. 

If your child has a bit too much space between their teeth, our doctors will be able to identify the underlying cause and create a personalized treatment plan to close the gaps and improve the overall appearance of your child’s smile. 

Missing teeth

Sometimes, gaps between teeth exist because of congenitally missing teeth that never grew in. In other cases, these gaps may be created when permanent teeth are lost due to injury or disease. 

If this is something your child has experienced, we can use braces to move existing teeth into their proper positions, then place bonded bridges where the missing teeth would have been. This approach allows us to create an evenly-spaced smile for your child that looks great and feels great, too!

Open bite

An open bite is where the upper and lower rows of the front teeth don’t touch or close properly when the mouth is closed. Many open bites come from extended thumb sucking in childhood, which can cause the teeth to grow into a noticeably rounded formation. 

Whatever the cause, an open bite can generally be treated with a combination of braces and an orthodontic appliance known as a “crib.” This device prevents the tongue from putting pressure against the anterior teeth when swallowing, thus allowing the teeth to be adjusted while also training a correct swallowing pattern. 

Once treatment is complete, your child will enjoy an aligned bite that allows them to close their teeth and enjoy all their favorite foods with ease.

How To Recognize And Treat Your Child's Misaligned Jaw

Deep overbite

When a child has a deep overbite, the lower teeth recede so far behind the upper teeth that they bite into the roof of the mouth. The upper front teeth also overlap the lower front teeth. Out of all the bite disorders, a deep overbite is the most detrimental to the teeth and health of the jaw joints. It can also have an impact on face shape and appearance. 

Treatment for a deep overbite may be achievable with orthodontics alone, or a combination of orthodontics and restorative dentistry, depending on the severity of the case. Correcting deep bite misalignments will not only improve the functionality of your child’s mouth but will also dramatically improve the appearance of their smile.


An underbite occurs when the bottom teeth protrude in front of the upper teeth. This type of bite misalignment can cause pain at the jaw joint, and the angled pressure it creates can wear down teeth over time. Children with underbites have quite a few treatment options available to them, including:

  • an upper jaw expander, which can be widened nightly until treatment is complete
  • a reverse-pull face mask, which wraps around the head and attaches to metal bands on the back upper teeth to pull the upper jaw forward
  • traditional braces to adjust the misaligned teeth

Orthodontic treatment like this will often relieve any pain and discomfort associated with the underbite. It can also make smiling, eating, and even breathing easier for your child!


If a child has an overjet, their top front teeth will protrude far beyond the bottom front teeth. This particular malocclusion is often referred to as “buck teeth” and is most effectively treated when diagnosed as early as possible. This gives us the chance to use their growth to our advantage by preemptively guiding a child’s tooth eruption. The child’s age and specific needs will determine what treatment approach we take, but options will usually include:

  • bite correction devices
  • traditional braces
  • removable orthodontic appliances
  • tooth removal
  • surgery

Once we treat your child’s overjet, they’ll enjoy a beautifully balanced, functional smile. 


How To Recognize And Treat Your Child's Misaligned Jaw

Find the best fit for your child at Decatur Orthodontics

Did you know that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child see an orthodontist by the age of 7? This is because most children around that age will have enough dental “landmarks” in place that an expert orthodontist like Dr. Francis can assess their teeth, jaw, and bite to ensure everything is developing normally. 

Though this initial consultation is only the first step to help our team recognize and treat your child’s potentially misaligned jaw, it is usually the most important one, because catching issues early allows the Decatur Orthodontics team to preemptively address orthodontic issues before they become issues.

Dr. Francis is proud to provide customized care in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere to every child we treat. If you’ve been wondering if your child would benefit from orthodontic care, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at how your child’s smile is developing! 

If you’re in Decatur or the surrounding area and would like to know more about the benefits of orthodontics, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation. Whatever orthodontic needs your child may have, we’ll provide them with the best orthodontic experience possible!