How is Malocclusion Treated in a Child?

December 18, 2022

Malocclusion is the technical term for crooked teeth, which is a condition that can happen with or without misaligned jaws. Malocclusion usually starts in childhood and if it's not treated at the right time it can develop into more complex issues such as tooth wear, speech difficulties and, of course, inevitable self-confidence issues that may affect your child's future. But what causes it, and how is malocclusion treated in a child?

What Causes Malocclusion?

Malocclusion is normally caused by a hereditary condition or by environmental factors such as nail biting, thumb sucking, or even how we eat or speak as children. But the condition can also be triggered much earlier, if there was a prolonged use of a feeding bottle or if the child used a dummy.

The truth is that malocclusion can be caused by many reasons or a mixture of things. In some cases, it is also possible to develop malocclusion after a jaw injury. Or even by seamlessly harmless habits such as chewing the end of the pen when we were bored in school. But even though it may be obvious, some parents may miss the symptoms of malocclusion in children. So what should you be looking for? 

What are the Symptoms of Malocclusion in Children?

The most obvious sign that a child has malocclusion is, of course, the visible crooked or crowded teeth. But there may be other symptoms that will help you to identify if your child has developed malocclusion. 

  • There's a sign of overbite, which can be seen if the front teeth in the top jaw stick out over the under jaw teeth.

  • There's a sign of underbite when the teeth in the lower jaw may stick out over the upper jaw teeth. 

  • The child has an open bite when the front teeth don’t (from the upper and under the jaw) meet when the child closes their mouth. 

And while malocclusion can be seen, there are other underlying issues that your child may be experiencing that are a direct effect of malocclusion, which includes: 

  • Teeth grinding
  • Issues while eating or speaking
  • Losing baby teeth, too early or too late 
  • Breathing through their mouths
  • Experiencing signs of gum disease
  • Complaining about jaw problems (such as pain, stiffness, etc) 
  • Tooth decay

Is it Possible to Prevent Malocclusion?

Malocclusions have genetic components that cannot be prevented; however, we can look at the parents to predict how a child's jaw and teeth will grow. This helps guide us in determining which treatment will be appropriate for the child.

A child's environment can, however, be prevented, and this is definitely the best treatment of malocclusion. For example, if they are under 9 years old and their habit is contributing to malocclusion, stopping these habits might lead to a spontaneous improvement in their condition. In general, when these habits are stopped early, they contribute less to a malocclusion condition.

Can Malocclusion be Fixed Without Surgery?

The three main options for correcting malocclusion without surgery are Invisalign, braces, and cosmetic procedures. An underbite correction by surgery is generally only necessary if the bad bite is caused by a more severe skeletal problem.

How is Malocclusion Diagnosed in a Child?

It is common for your child's healthcare provider to diagnose malocclusion based on a thorough health chronology and physical examination. Your child will likely need an orthodontic evaluation and a course of treatment from an orthodontist. Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in treating irregularities in teeth, jaws, and bites. 

An image of the internal tissue, bones, and teeth is obtained via X-rays. It is possible to evaluate the malocclusion by making plaster imprints of the teeth and putting them into a mould. There is no specific system for determining how much misalignment is too much. Your child's orthodontist will determine whether a bite adjustment is necessary as the best treatment of malocclusion.

What are the different types of malocclusion?

There are three types of misaligned teeth, each with distinct characteristics.

  • Malocclusion of class 1 consists of overcrowded teeth without a deformity in the jaws.

  • Malocclusion of class 2 is caused by lower jaw growth not matching upper jaw growth, resulting in a larger distance between upper and lower teeth.

  • In a class 3 malocclusion, the lower jaw has grown more than the upper jaw, which results in a prominent lower jaw and an underbite, where the upper teeth fit behind the lower teeth.

Each of the three types of malocclusion may cause asymmetries in the jaw.

How is Malocclusion Treated in a Child?

In addition to the severity of the condition, the best treatment of malocclusion for your child's treatment will depend on their symptoms, age, and general health. According to the severity of the condition, treatment is used to straighten the teeth, correct the bite, and improve the appearance of your child's smile. In some cases, phases of treatment are performed depending on the complexity of the malocclusion. These phases may include:

It may be necessary to remove your child's baby teeth in order to make space for permanent teeth. It is also possible to remove some permanent teeth as well.

In some cases, jaw surgery may be required to fix the bite problem when the bones are affected.

  • In addition to removable dental appliances (retainers), braces are also available. A retainer is composed of wires and plastic. It must be cleaned periodically. Braces are small brackets connected to the teeth with wires. They can be taken out and put back in at any time. As the orthodontist adjusts the wire over time, the teeth gradually straighten and the bite corrects.

If your child is experiencing any signs of malocclusion, it's extremely important that you take action as soon as possible to avoid any more damage. Book now an appointment with Baker Pediatric Dentistry, to check your child's oral health, or to get answers to any questions that you may have about your child's health. 

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