One of the most common concerns parents have when visiting their dentist is whether their child will require braces.
The first and most important thing to remember is that every child is different, which is why it’s so important to ensure your children visit the dentist regularly to check on their development and make sure any problems in the mouth are picked up early.
They have lost baby teeth early
If you notice your child losing their baby teeth too early or losing baby teeth as a result of tooth decay, they may need treatment to prevent the remaining teeth from moving or tipping into the empty spaces while the adult teeth are still growing. Treatment can help to hold these spaces open so that development can continue normally.
They have a misaligned jaw
Having a jaw that doesn’t match up correctly can cause overbites, underbites and crossbites. When your child’s jaws don’t line up properly, early intervention may be recommended to ensure the best result is achieved.
They have crowded (or crooked) teeth
When there isn’t enough space in the mouth, your child’s teeth can overlap; this is known as crowding. While your child may not require braces immediately, it does mean that their oral development needs to be more closely monitored by the dentist.
Crowding can even prevent your child from brushing and flossing properly, leading to an excess of plaque in your child’s mouth and a higher risk of tooth decay. Braces can fix this problem by straightening out the teeth and putting them in the proper position.
They have spaces (or gaps)
It’s perfectly normal for young children to have wide gaps between their baby (primary) teeth, simply because these teeth are generally smaller than permanent ones. However, if large spaces remain after the adult teeth have come through, braces might be recommended to close the gaps – especially if there are problems with speech, food trapping or appearances.
Most parents can attest that thumb or dummy sucking can be soothing for their baby or toddler. However, if this habit continues it can change the development of the jaw.
They’re mouth breathing
Children who breathe through their mouth during the day or night will have their mouth open for the majority of time to let air in. This can affect the appearance of their face and the growth of their teeth. Because their tongue is not able to sit on the roof of their mouth, your child can develop a longer face with narrow jaws. This creates a smaller amount of space for adult teeth to grow, which may result in the need for an assessment by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to check for issues with tonsils, adenoids and the airway. The ENT specialist may also recommend braces to correct jaw problems.
They have difficulty chewing
Misaligned teeth can negatively impact your child’s ability to eat comfortably. If they’re having difficulty eating or are often biting their tongue or insides of their cheeks, it could be because their bite is off or their teeth are crooked.
They have mouth or jaw pain
We can’t always see orthodontic problems — sometimes, your child may only feel the problem. If your child is experiencing mouth or jaw pain regularly, there may be an underlying orthodontic reason, so it’s important to see your orthodontist to determine what’s causing their discomfort.
They have problems with speech
Many things can cause speech problems, but sometimes it’s just a matter of misaligned teeth. If your child is having difficulty saying certain words or generally struggling with speech, it could be time to see your dentist or orthodontist, along with a speech pathologist.