One common misconception parents have is that braces are just for aesthetics to make sure your child has perfectly straight teeth. While that is a wonderful benefit of treatment, orthodontics is more than just a pretty smile and has many benefits for your child’s oral and overall health.
Misaligned teeth or jaws can cause issues to arise such as gingivitis or even speech issues. To prevent this from happening to your child, make sure you are keeping an eye out for signs that they may need orthodontic treatment. Here are six things to look for:
- An orthodontist said as much
The only surefire way you can tell if your child needs orthodontic treatment is to have a consultation with an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a specialist in orthodontic care. Orthodontists attend years of schooling beyond dental school in order to properly diagnose and treat orthodontic issues, which may go far beyond just straightening crooked teeth.
The recommended age for a first visit to an orthodontist is age 7. This can help an orthodontist determine orthodontic treatment from early on, in order to guide permanent teeth into better positions, guide jaw growth, and prevent the need for more intense treatment in the future. This does not mean that your child will immediately begin treatment after this first consultation. An orthodontist can monitor growth from an early age to better determine the right time for your child to get braces, and whether they will even need them.
- Losing baby teeth early or late
Most children have their baby teeth come in by age 3, and begin losing them around age 6. Age 6-12 is the normal range for losing teeth. The teeth that came in first are typically the first to go when your child starts losing their teeth, and the ones that came in last will be the last to go.
If your child is losing teeth long before age 6 or doesn’t start until long after, it is likely due to an underlying issue that can be treated with orthodontic care.
- Mouth breathing
If your child is breathing through their mouth, it is a sign of obstructed airways which can be caused by jaw malformation or a bad bite. A key sign of a mouth breather is if your child is frequently seen with lower lip hanging open.
An orthodontist can help diagnose whether your child’s mouth breathing is associated with a jaw malformation, then guide the jaw to a better position with braces and other orthodontic treatment. This will help open up the airway and can stop mouth breathing altogether.
- Crowded teeth
Crowded teeth are a sign that your child’s teeth and jaw may be misaligned. Crowding is one of the easiest signs to spot as a parent. Signs of crowded teeth are teeth that seem too big for your child’s mouth or teeth that are twisted and overlapping.
- Jaws that shift and/or make sounds
When your child’s jaw is shifting and making popping sounds, often when yawning or eating, there is most certainly an underlying issue with their jawbone, as the jaw is not moving properly. The muscles around the jaw then have to work overtime to close the mouth, chew, bite, and even talk. This may cause pain and stiffness in the jaw. This may be linked to behaviors like grinding their teeth, especially when they are sleeping, or clenching their jaw.
- Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
When your child smiles, do their teeth gap in the front? Are the front or bottom teeth sticking out, or do their teeth seem to connect in a way that doesn’t look normal? If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, then your child needs orthodontic treatment. A misaligned jaw can potentially cause other serious health issues or be a detriment to confidence in the future.
If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is time to get them into an orthodontic office to see a specialist. Only an orthodontic specialist can properly plan and adjust treatment to best fit your child. Visit our directory of trained orthodontic specialists to find the orthodontist closest to you.