Many of us don’t give too much thought to our bite patterns, especially if we were lucky enough to have good dental genes that have been passed down from our parents. However, some of us were the kids who had to have more than one round of braces and even the dreaded headgear that came along with extensive bite issues that we developed as children. Since the 1990s, orthodontics have greatly advanced, but no parent wants their child to experience the pain and discomfort that can come with bite issues and extensive braces, expanders, and other mechanisms that are used to correct irregular bite patterns. While it’s not always possible to prevent bite misalignment, there are steps to take to ensure you are monitoring your child’s jaw and bite development as they are growing in order to take action early on, if it’s needed.
The best course of action to keep track of how your infant’s bite is developing is to schedule their first dental visit with a pediatric dentist by their first birthday and an orthodontist visit by the age of 6 years old. This is the best time to stop any misalignment in its tracks and take early precautions to correct any bad habits. As baby teeth give way to adult teeth, you want to monitor their growth carefully making sure they are coming in straight and correctly next to surrounding teeth without any excessive gaps or crowding. The upper teeth should come down ever so slightly over the lower teeth when jaws are shut.
These are the most common abnormalities to look for in your child’s bite:
Ideally, the front teeth should close on top of the bottom teeth, ever so slightly overlapping when the jaw is shut. With an underbite, however, the opposite occurs, and the bottom jaw sticks out slightly more than the top. This is also called a Class III malocclusion or prognathism. This kind of condition is hereditary for the most part, and children with one parent who has an underbite are likely to show symptoms early. Thumb sucking during infant and toddler stages can also play a major role in causing underbites. The thrusting motion used for thumb and pacifier sucking can cause major strain in the teeth and jaw muscles and should be treated as soon as possible.
An overbite happens when the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth, but in a more exaggerated fashion than what is natural. To some degree, everyone has a bit of an overbite, excluding people with underbites. The bigger issue with this bite misalignment is that it causes unhealthy wear and tear on the teeth and can cause major jaw pain and lead to conditions like TMJ. Overbites are generally measured regarding percentages, making the ideal rage from 5-25%. Treating an overbite above that range can become tricky, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for this abnormality in your children starting at the age of six.
When the upper and lower teeth to not connect when the jaws are closed, there is a type of malocclusion called an “open bite.” There are a handful of reasons an open bite may occur bit the most common two are thumb sucking and “thrusting” of the tongue. Thrusting is caused by an involuntary action of pushing the tongue outwards while speaking and swallowing. There are ways in which this habit can be stopped with various kinds of devices that can be temporarily installed in the mouth. This is much easier to treat when a child is still young, and much more difficult to handle later on in adult life. TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, is another issue closely associated with an open bite. The combination of tongue thrusting and a skeletal genetic issue can cause a lot of strain on the jaw, causing it to be malformed and reposition improperly.
Sometimes teeth don’t fix quite perfectly over each other, sometimes straying to one side more than the other. This is often most prominent in childhood, but it does not usually correct itself as other alignment issues may. If left untreated, the effects of a crossbite can cause major health issues later on in life, so it’s important to make sure you are monitoring any signs in your toddler of this malalignment in your child’s mouth development. There are several treatment options including palatal or maxillary expanders, removable expanders, surgically assisted rapid expanders, and standard braces that are used in combination with expansion to help fix the crossbite and straighten teeth.
Adult teeth should come in next to each other without too much crowding or gaps that are too wide. However, it’s not uncommon for these things to occur, causing many children to eventually seek the aid of braces to correct these flaws. Most of the time, these spacing problems are a result of a discrepancy between the size of the jaw and teeth but can be corrected, even if it calls for removing several teeth to create more room to solve a crowding issue. There are various kinds of bite issues that can occur in both lower and upper teeth, the best way to resolve these matters is to seek an orthodontic professional to make an early assessment as adult teeth begin to come in.
Certain protrusions may occur in which the upper teeth in the jaw come in outward facing, or retrusion where the lower teeth appear to be too far back. These issues can be dealt with early on in childhood and mostly occur due to primary teeth being out of position or lost prematurely.
Beautiful and straight teeth are not just important for aesthetic purposes. Bite issues calling for orthodontic intervention can also be a health hazard that can develop into painful and debilitating conditions later on that could require surgery if left unattended. Genetics play a big role in your child’s bite pattern, so if you have struggled with orthodontic issues in your own life, pay especially close attention to your kid’s teeth as they grow in and develop in their formative years.