There are many reasons your child may need braces. Tooth and jaw problems can be caused by losing baby teeth too soon or too late, habits like thumb sucking, accidents, overcrowding or they can be inherited. Dr. Lían O’Dwyer, specialist orthodontist, outlines 5 signs your child may need braces and how to get help if you think they do.
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Signs Your Child May Need Braces
Crowding occurs when there is insufficient space in the jaws to accommodate all the adult teeth. It may manifest itself as teeth erupting in an incorrect position, such as behind other teeth, or else teeth failing to erupt at the appropriate time.
Crowding can make it difficult to maintain good oral hygiene, as it becomes harder to reach properly between teeth. Correcting crowded teeth will not only improve the appearance of your child’s smile but can also make the teeth easier to keep clean.
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#2. Irregular, Delayed or Early Loss of Baby Teeth
When a baby tooth falls out prematurely or is lost to decay, for example, other teeth can tilt into the empty spaces and it can cause delay in eruption of the adult tooth underneath.
Your family dentist will monitor the development of your child’s teeth and can detect if there is a deviation from the normal sequence of tooth eruption.
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#3. Prominent Upper Teeth
An overjet refers to the horizontal overlap of the upper and lower front teeth, and is one of the most common signs your child may need braces.
An increased overjet is usually noticeable when the upper front teeth appear to “stick out” much further than the bottom teeth. This can sometimes result from habits such as prolonged thumb sucking.
In some cases, an overjet makes it impossible for the child to fully close their lips, which can place the front teeth at higher risk of fracture in the case of a fall or sports-related injury.
When the lower teeth bite in front of the upper teeth, it can be described as an underbite. An underbite may be associated with a prominent appearance to the lower jaw.
It can sometimes lead to difficulty with chewing and certain speech sounds, and may worsen with continued growth.
A crossbite is an abnormal or “back to front” relationship between the upper and lower teeth, which can affect the back teeth, or the front teeth, or both. It can be associated with a shift or “displacement” in the position of the jaws, from when the teeth first touch until they are fully biting together.
If left untreated, this kind of displacement can lead to increased tooth wear, gum recession and asymmetric jaw growth.
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How to Get Help if you Think Your Child Needs Braces
The Orthodontic Society of Ireland recommends that you bring your child for an orthodontic assessment at approximately 7 or 8 years of age. Although some children may benefit from an orthodontic evaluation as young as age 5 or 6, others can wait until the baby teeth have fallen out and the permanent teeth are coming into place at 11 or 12 years.
In some cases, interceptive orthodontic treatment can be carried out from age 7 or 8, to correct or improve an incorrect bite or malalignment of the teeth. This type of early treatment could last from 3 months to a year and aims to correct a specific problem during the development of the teeth.
A phase of interceptive treatment may remove the need for future treatment or simplify future brace treatment, but it does not guarantee that further orthodontic treatment will not be required once the permanent teeth are fully erupted.
Your family dentist will help you determine the best time for evaluation. Starting the process early doesn’t mean a child will get braces right away. It just means the orthodontist will be able to assess the child’s situation and decide the best time to start treatment.
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