Malocclusion in Children
Malocclusion is when a child’s
teeth become crooked or crowded, The child may also have a problem with their bite.
means the teeth of the upper jaw don’t meet normally with the teeth of the lower jaw
when the jaw is closed.
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.
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
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.
A child with malocclusion has
crowded or crooked teeth. They 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
Your child’s healthcare provider
can often diagnose malocclusion with a full health history and physical exam. They
likely refer your child to a dentist or an orthodontist for full evaluation and
treatment. Orthodontists are specially trained dentists. They treat the irregularities
of the teeth, bite, and jaws.
Your child may also need:
X-rays. This test makes images of internal tissues, bones, and teeth.
Impressions of the teeth. These are imprints of the teeth made with plaster poured in a mold. They help evaluate
There is no specific system to say how much misalignment is too much. Your child’s
orthodontist will decide if your child’s bite needs to be fixed.
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, correct the bite, and improve the look of your child’s smile.
Treatment is sometimes done in phases depending on the extent of the malocclusion.
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 and connected with a wire. By
tightening the wire over time, the orthodontist is able to slowly straighten the
teeth and correct the bite.
If your child needs a mouth
appliance, they may need to limit some activities. Discuss this with your child’s
dentist or orthodontist. Your child shouldn't eat the following foods while wearing
type of mouth appliance:
- Sticky foods
- Peanuts or other nuts
- Malocclusion is when a child’s teeth
are crooked or crowded.
- It causes the upper and lower jaws to
not meet correctly when closed. The child may also have a problem with their
- Many different things often help lead
to malocclusion, such as genes. Children older than age 5 who suck their fingers are
more at risk for it.
- It may cause trouble eating,
breathing, and speaking. Some children may also have gum disease and jaw joint
- X-rays and impressions of the teeth
can help diagnose malocclusion.
- Treatment may include tooth removal
and a mouth appliance.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment
is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects
- Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important
if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.