Correctly aligned teeth are what keeps us from biting our cheeks and let us chew and speak properly. Properly aligned teeth also allow for proper cleaning to prevent tooth decay.
Badly aligned teeth are called malocclusion. This means that the teeth of the upper jaw don’t connect properly with the teeth of the lower jaw. Different types of malocclusion are overbites, underbites, and uneven bites.
Malocclusion causes many problems. These problems include trouble biting or chewing, speech difficulties such as lisping, mouth breathing, jaw pain, unhealthy gums, and an unattractive appearance.
Children may inherit malocclusion because of the size and shape of their face, jaws, and teeth. Or they can 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, or oversized teeth; or jaws that shift or make sounds.
Your pediatric dentist may try to prevent your young child’s malocclusion from developing. Preventive treatment means leaving enough space for permanent teeth to come in. This may require a space maintainer to take the place of a baby tooth lost too early. Or the orthodontist might remove primary teeth that don’t come out on their own.
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
- Holding space for permanent teeth
Comprehensive orthodontic treatment means correcting a malocclusion and making sure that the jaw works well. This treatment may take place in several phases.
Two types of appliances can correct malocclusion. Removable appliances made of wires and plastic are easy to keep clean. But to do their job, they must be worn exactly as instructed. Fixed appliances, called braces, control tooth movement better than removable appliances. But food collects around braces. So children wearing braces must be especially careful about cleaning their teeth.
For more information on preventing misaligned teeth, contact Today’s Dental of Boxborough.