What Are the Signs Your Child Needs Braces?

It’s important to identify specific signs your child needs braces so you can schedule an orthodontic appointment if needed. Orthodontic care to correct tooth alignment will not only boost your children’s confidence in their smiles, it can also help prevent future tooth decay and gum disease. Straight teeth are easier to maintain, are more effective at chewing, which aids in digestion, and do not grind and wear down prematurely.

Signs to Watch For

A definitive indication braces are necessary is malocclusion. A malocclusion is when the jaws do not meet evenly. When the jaw’s top half juts over the lower, it is called an overbite. When the lower jaw extends past the upper jaw, it is called an underbite. The severity of the malocclusion differs from class one to class three. Some side effects of the condition include the following:

  • Misaligned, crooked teeth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Shifting, noisy jaw
  • Jaw that won’t fully close
  • Tendency to bite the sides or roof of the mouth
  • Tooth decay in young children
  • Regular tooth grinding
  • A clenched jaw
  • Premature loss of baby teeth
  • Late loss of baby teeth

Malocclusion is common, as it is extremely rare to have a perfect bite. Mild malocclusion may not require corrective treatment, but more severe cases could contribute to a speech impediment, early tooth decay and gum disease in the future. It could also result in temporomandibular joint dysfunction down the road, a condition involving intense jaw pain that could radiate to the neck, shoulders and back, sometimes inflicting nausea, dizziness and ringing ears.

Can You Prevent the Need for Braces?

Tooth alignment problems mostly stem from genetics. Children of parents who needed braces are more likely to require the same treatment. Certain behaviors can exacerbate mild conditions. Children who regularly suck on a pacifier or their fingers may have widened gaps between teeth. Unhealthy diets with high sugar levels and not enough bone-building vitamins may also contribute to less-than-perfect tooth development.

How Soon Can You Diagnose the Need for Braces?

According to the American Association of Orthodontics, each child should see an orthodontist by the age of seven. By this stage of tooth development, an orthodontist can observe developing issues like overcrowding, an improper bite, ectopic eruption or protrusions. Braces are not put on at the time of this examination, but the orthodontist can provide preventive tooth-care guidelines and helpful suggestions to limit difficulties in the future. In some cases, problematic baby teeth may be removed early to limit overcrowding of incoming adult teeth. In other cases, a baby tooth may have fallen out too early. The orthodontist can put in a space holder, ensuring developing teeth will not shift out of position, affecting the alignment of other teeth.

Only an orthodontist who closely examines the individual will be able to pronounce the best method of interceptive care, whether or not the child should receive braces, and when. Children of all ages – and adults, too – can benefit from corrective orthodontic care, but it is easier to predict the outcome and rectify more severe cases of tooth misalignment when braces are employed in a growing jaw.

If you spot one or more signs your child needs braces, call a local orthodontist for an individual consultation.