Malocclusion in Children
What is malocclusion in children?
Malocclusion is when a child’s teeth become crooked or crowded. The child may also have a problem with his or her bite. That means the teeth of the upper jaw don’t meet normally with the teeth of the lower jaw when the jaw is closed.
What causes malocclusion in a child?
Malocclusion can sometimes be caused by an injury to the jaw. But it’s often the result of many different things. It may be from genes, the environment, or both. Malocclusion can develop as a child grows.
Which children are at risk for malocclusion?
Children who suck their thumbs or fingers after age 5 have a greater chance of developing malocclusion. Children with a very small space between their baby teeth are at risk too. They may have problems with malocclusion when their permanent teeth come in. This is because the permanent teeth are larger and need more space.
What are the symptoms of malocclusion in a child?
A child with malocclusion has crowded or crooked teeth. He or she may also have 1 of these bite problems:
- Overbite. The front teeth in the upper jaw stick out over the teeth in the lower jaw.
- Underbite. The teeth in the lower jaw stick out over the teeth in the upper jaw.
- Open bite. The front teeth don’t meet when the jaw is closed.
- Crossbite. The top teeth sit behind the bottom teeth.
Malocclusion may cause a child to have:
- Problems eating or speaking
- Teeth grinding
- Loss of baby teeth too soon or very late
- Mouth breathing
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Jaw joint problems
How is malocclusion treated in a child?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
The goal of treatment is to straighten the teeth and improve the look of your child’s smile. Treatment is sometimes done in phases depending on the extent of the malocclusion. It may include:
- Tooth removal. Your child’s baby teeth may need to be taken out to make room for the permanent teeth. Some permanent teeth may also be removed.
- Jaw surgery. In some cases, your child may need jaw surgery to fix the bite problem when the bones are affected.
- Mouth appliances. These may be removable (a retainer). Or they may be fixed (braces). A retainer is made of wires and plastic. It can be put in and taken out. It must be cleaned on a regular basis. Braces are small brackets attached to the teeth. They are connected with a wire. By tightening the wire from time to time, the orthodontist is able to slowly straighten the teeth over time.
If your child needs a mouth appliance, he or she may need to limit some activities. Discuss this with your child’s dentist or orthodontist. Your child should not eat the following foods while wearing any type of mouth appliance:
- Sticky foods
- Peanuts or other nuts
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