Your child will begin to teethe between 6 to 8 months. It is a long process, usually beginning with their lower central incisors and progressing until about the age of three, when their molars will appear. Between the ages of 6 to 8, their baby — or primary teeth — will begin to loosen as their permanent teeth begin to erupt.
By the age of 13, your child should have all of their permanent teeth. Last but not least, most teens will then see their wisdom teeth appear by the age of 17, however, not everyone will develop wisdom teeth.
Throughout this process, your child will also see the development of their jaw and facial bones, usually between the ages of 4 to 6. As this happens, spaces are created between their primary teeth to help make room for their adult teeth. During this time, your child will be developing their ‘bite’, which plays an important role in the proper function of their jaw and chewing. If your child develops bite problems, it can lead to poor bite, known as malocclusion. To help avoid bite problems, you can monitor the development of your child’s teeth.
Here’s everything you need to know about bite problems and how you can spot potential issues early on.
What causes malocclusion?
In most cases, malocclusion is an inherited condition. If either parent has bite issues, or members of their immediate families have had bite issues, then there is a higher risk your child will develop malocclusion; however, there are other factors that can change a child’s bite and the shape and structure of their jaw, including:
- Cleft lip and palate
- Pacifier use, especially after the age of 3
- Prolonged use of bottle-feeding
- Thumb sucking
- Injuries that cause jaw misalignment
- Tumours in the mouth or jaw
- Abnormally shaped teeth
- Impacted teeth
- Mouth breathing due to allergies or enlarged adenoids or tonsils
What are the typical symptoms of a malocclusion?
As part of your bite monitoring you can watch for the following symptoms:
- Misaligned teeth
- Your child seems to be biting their inner cheeks or tongue
- Pain or discomfort chewing or biting
- Speech problems, such as a lisp
- Mouth breathing
What are the signs of bite problems?
There will also be visible signs your child is developing bite problems, including:
1. Teeth spacing
Watch to see if your child’s teeth are too close together or have large gaps between them. Extreme crowding can also cause overlaps of the teeth.
2. Crooked teeth
This is more obvious, as the teeth that are clearly growing in crooked and do not appear equally spaced and aligned.
In this case, the lower front teeth are jutted forward and land in front of the upper teeth when they bite down.
4. Open bite
This is less obvious, with a space between the upper and lower teeth when they bite down.
5. Deep bite
Here, the upper front teeth come down too far over the lower teeth.
In this case, just a few teeth bite abnormally in front of or behind their counterparts.
How is malocclusion diagnosed?
We can assist in the diagnosis of malocclusion at your child’s routine dental exams. We will watch the progress of your child’s bite development and might decide to take X-rays to determine if their teeth are improperly aligned. We can then classify the severity and type of malocclusion based on one of the following classes:
1. Class 1
The upper teeth overlap the lower teeth. In this type of malocclusion, the bite is normal, and the overlap is slight.
2. Class 2
A severe overbite is present where the upper teeth and jaw significantly overlap the lower jaw and teeth.
3. Class 3
A severe underbite where the lower jaw protrudes forward causing the lower teeth to overlap the upper teeth and jaw.
Although your dentist checks your child’s bite as part of their regular exams, if you notice symptoms of bite problems, you can call them anytime to set up an appointment.
Is there a treatment for malocclusion?
In cases of mild malocclusion, treatment will not be required, however, should we find that the malocclusion is severe, we can discuss the suitable child orthodontics and other treatments, which can include:
- Braces to correct positioning
- Extractions to correct overcrowding
- Surgery to reshape or shorten the jaw, in severe cases
In some cases, treatments can have some issues, including:
- Tooth decay
- Irritation caused by appliances
- Difficulty chewing or speaking
However, these issues will end once treatment is complete.
How can malocclusion be prevented?
In the case where bite issues are hereditary, malocclusion cannot be prevented. You can help reduce the risk of malocclusion by limiting the use of pacifiers and bottles, as these interfere with the development of the teeth and jaw.
Your best defence is early detection, as this will allow us to recommend treatment to correct the problem. There are also many cases where the bite issue might correct itself as your child’s jaw grows. Your child’s dentist will monitor development to decide what action is required if any.
Why is it important to treat bite problems?
If we determine treatment is required and action is not taken, the issue can progress and worsen. If teeth are not in the proper position, they can continue to drift leading to further issues such as overcrowding, tooth decay, gum disease or temporomandibular (TMD) disorder.
The good news is, common treatment of bite issues in children can be corrected. In fact, the earlier the issue is identified, the more affordable the treatment and the less time it will take. Understanding what to look for to identify bite problems is the first step in finding issues.
It is important to keep in mind as well that living with crooked, misaligned teeth can have a very negative impact on your child’s confidence. Helping them find the best possible treatment for optimal dental health and a winning smile will provide them with a more positive self-image while promoting good dental health for life.
If you would like more information about bite issues and child orthodontics, call Treehouse Dental at 1-833-333-6623 or contact us here.