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February is Children’s Dental Awareness Month

Malocclusion in Kids

February is Children’s Dental Awareness Month. Teeth that don’t align or fit perfectly together usually require no treatment. Alignment is what keeps us from biting our cheeks and lips. Properly aligned teeth also let us chew and speak properly and allow for proper cleaning to prevent decay. Another name for badly aligned teeth is malocclusion. This simply means that the teeth of the upper jaw don’t connect properly with the teeth of the lower jaw. Different types of malocclusion include:

  • Overbites;
  • Underbites; and
  • Uneven bites.

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Children may inherit a family trait of malocclusion because of the size and shape of their face, jaws and teeth. They can also develop it from using a bottle or pacifier too long, thumb sucking, losing baby teeth too early or late or from an accident. Sometimes both inherited and later problems are to blame. Signs your child might have a malocclusion include crowded, misplaced, oversized teeth or jaws that shift or make sounds.

Your child’s dentist may notice your child’s malocclusion and refer you to an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dentist with extra training. Orthodontists know how to diagnose, prevent and treat dental and facial problems, such as malocclusion. Don’t wait to see an orthodontist until all your child’s permanent teeth have come in. In fact, it’s easier, faster and less expensive to treat a malocclusion during early childhood.

To diagnose your child’s malocclusion, the orthodontist may suggest several procedures:

  • Impressions of the teeth to make plaster models.
  • Photographs of the face and teeth to make a record of treatment.
  • Several types of X-rays. 

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An orthodontist may try to prevent your young child’s malocclusion from developing. Preventive treatment means leaving enough space for permanent teeth to come in. A second type of treatment, called interceptive treatment, aims to keep a developing malocclusion from getting worse.

The orthodontist may guide emerging permanent teeth into alignment by:

  • Removing teeth;
  • Reducing the size of teeth; and
  • Holding space for permanent teeth.

Overall, comprehensive orthodontic treatment means correcting a malocclusion and making sure that the jaw works well. This treatment may take place in several phases.

For more information on malocclusion in kids, read here.

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