Here at Decatur Orthodontics, we often hear from patients who all want to know the answer to the same question: how do I know if my child needs orthodontic treatment? It can be difficult as a parent to discern the difference between an endearingly-gap toothed grin and an orthodontic imperfection that will seriously impinge your child’s development. Recognizing and treating your child’s orthodontic issues is a difficult but necessary skill with which we would love to help you out!
The answer to this will depend on many factors, including their age, the alignment of their teeth and jaw, and the results you’re hoping to achieve. This complex answer is one reason why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child see an orthodontist by the age of 7! Most children around this age will have enough dental “landmarks” in place that their teeth, jaw, and bite can be assessed to ensure everything is developing normally, while also allowing for ample time to address orthodontic issues as (or before) they arise.
While Dr. Francis customizes every treatment plan to meet the specific needs of the child that he is treating, there are several common conditions he’ll be looking for during their initial evaluation. It can be helpful to outline these so parents understand how the oral challenges their child may be facing can be successfully corrected with orthodontics! Let’s take a closer look at some of the issues we see most often in young children.
You probably already know that healthy teeth and gums are essential to your child’s oral health. Unfortunately, crowded teeth can be difficult to brush and floss effectively. It can be challenging to maintain good dental hygiene, which increases 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.
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.
Sometimes these gaps 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!
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.
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 teeth 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
Once we treat your child’s overjet, they’ll be left with a beautifully balanced, functional smile.
Find the best fit for your child at Decatur Orthodontics
Decatur Orthodontics is proud to provide customized care for 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 and would like to know more about the benefits of orthodontics, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation. Whatever your child needs, we’ll provide them with the best orthodontic experience possible!