Resolving misalignments to protect your child’s future oral and overall health.
Our jaws contain two of the only joints in our body that must move together as a unit, so they’re meant to fit and work together a certain way. It’s part of what makes them so unique! When jaws aren’t aligned correctly (also called malocclusion), it impacts their appearance as well as their ability to do their job—and it can lead to additional issues in the future with their oral and overall health. Thankfully, orthodontic treatments can resolve and prevent issues caused by malocclusions.
This news gets better, though, because orthodontic treatments are often more effective for children! They’re still growing, so dentists can influence the growth of their teeth and jaws for permanent, long-term solutions. This is why orthodontic care is so important for your child. But you might be wondering what issues orthodontics really treats and prevents. To help you understand just how big of a positive impact orthodontic care can have on your little one’s life, here are 10 ways misalignment or malocclusion impacts their life.
1. Your child may experience difficulties chewing.
When there is a malocclusion, your child’s bite and teeth don’t fit together the way they should. This can make chewing difficult, sometimes even painful. The result is often that your child’s food doesn’t get chewed as thoroughly as it should. It might not sound like a big deal, but chewing is actually the first step in the digestive process.
Food that isn’t chewed thoroughly enough is harder to digest, potentially leading to symptoms like stomach aches, acid reflux, indigestion, bloating, and more. It also makes it harder for your child’s body to absorb all of the food’s nutrients. Aligning your child’s bite allows their jaws to fit and work together the way they’re meant to, making chewing simple and relieving GI symptoms by improving their ability to digest food thoroughly.
2. They can develop speech problems.
Our jaws and teeth help us create sounds necessary for speaking, including a range of sounds like “th” and “l” that are created by touching our tongues to our teeth. A malocclusion causes teeth to be misaligned, which can impact the way your child produces certain sounds. Part of resolving these speech difficulties is remedying the malocclusion that’s causing them, though your child may still need myofunctional therapy or speech therapy to help retrain their facial muscles and teach them how they should move their mouths to make sounds correctly. Regardless, the ability to speak correctly will affect countless areas of their life well into adulthood, so resolving the issue as early as possible can make a huge difference for them!
3. Your child may develop issues with their TMJ.
Everyone’s jaws have an ideal position—one where their jaw can relax. Jaw misalignments are far from ideal, as they can put added strain on the joints of your child’s jaws. This doesn’t always result in temporomandibular disorder (TMD), but it can certainly contribute to it, leading to symptoms like jaw pain, earaches, clicking or popping jaws, and sore muscles in their head, neck, shoulders, and back. Your child may not experience TMD symptoms while they’re young, but they can still arise as they get older, particularly if a condition like sleep apnea adds to the strain already on their jaw. Addressing your child’s malocclusion now nips this in the bud, relieving any current symptoms and helping prevent future symptoms before they even become a problem!
4. They may struggle with bad breath.
Crooked and misaligned teeth are harder to brush and floss well, especially for children who are still building the knowledge, coordination, and patience to clean their teeth thoroughly. As a result, children with misaligned bites may have a hard time cleaning their teeth thoroughly even if they’re trying, which can lead to bad breath. This bad breath can simply be a sign that your child isn’t brushing as well as they could, but it can also be a sign of tooth decay or gum disease, both of which can arise from poor oral hygiene. Either way, bad breath can be just as embarrassing for your child as it can be for you! Straight teeth are considerably easy to clean, however, so orthodontic treatment can make a world of a difference for your child’s breath—and save you a small fortune in breath mints!
5. They’re more likely to get gum disease.
If your child is having a hard time brushing and flossing their teeth thoroughly, they’re at a greater risk for gum disease. It’s easy for gum disease to go unnoticed at home because it’s often painless, but it can lead to issues like gum recession and tooth loss if left untreated. Periodontitis can let oral bacteria into your child’s bloodstream, impacting their whole body health as well. This presents a growing risk as your child ages, as it makes conditions like diabetes harder to control and increases the risk of overall health issues like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Straighter teeth are easier to floss thoroughly for people of all ages, helping them prevent gum disease more easily and protecting them from these increased risks.
6. Your child’s teeth might wear down faster due to a malocclusion.
Teeth that fit together well distribute chewing pressure evenly and don’t grind against each other. Misaligned teeth wear differently, often putting more stress on one side of the mouth than the other or causing teeth to grind together more than they should. As your child ages, this can cause their teeth to wear down more quickly. Eventually, your child may need to get dental crowns on worn teeth to relieve tooth sensitivity, protect them from decay, and restore their appearance and function. Thankfully, correcting their bite before this becomes a problem can save them from this, allowing their teeth to fit together and function well for years to come.
7. They might experience frequent headaches.
If your child gets frequent headaches, the culprit could be their misaligned bite. Muscle tension from extra strain on their jaw or from frequently clenching or grinding their teeth can both cause frequent headaches or even migraines. When you straighten your child’s bite, though, their jaws fit together much better, relieving the cause behind the behaviors that spark your child’s headaches. The result means more happy, headache-free days for your child!
8. They’re more likely to experience dental injuries.
Bruxism, which is when someone habitually clenches or grinds their teeth, can be caused by malocclusions. Many people experience bruxism in their sleep without even realizing it, but the habit wears teeth down over time and increases their risk of cracking, chipping, or breaking during the night. Another way malocclusions make your child more vulnerable to dental injuries is the simple fact that their teeth aren’t even. Teeth that stick out a little more than the others are more likely to take the brunt of a blow to the face from a fall or contact sport. This increases the likelihood that the tooth will be injured or even knocked out. The good news is that these risks can be lessened with orthodontic care! Straightening your child’s bite reduces their risk of bruxism and evens out their teeth, lowering the chance of dental injuries by ensuring any blows to their face are distributed more evenly across multiple teeth.
9. They may snore or experience other sleep disruptions because of a malocclusion.
It sounds strange, right? But it’s true! The position of your child’s jaws impacts how open their airway is, so when their jaws don’t fit together the way they’re meant to, it can impact their airway. This can cause them to snore or can contribute to sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances, impacting the amount and quality of rest your child gets at night. This, in turn, can impact their behavior and cause problems at school—and since many young children act hyperactive when they’re actually sleep deprived, it might not be obvious that this is the problem! Even if this isn’t a problem now, it can still cause issues as your child gets older. Resolving a misalignment puts their jaw in the ideal position, making it a surprisingly simple way to open their airway and relieve their symptoms, helping them to feel better every day!
10. Your child may struggle with self-confidence.
Perfect teeth aren’t necessary for a beautiful, confident smile. In fact, an imperfect smile can have a unique beauty to it! Having crooked teeth can impact your child’s self-confidence, however, especially during their teen years. Orthodontic treatments have significant value for their oral and overall health, but they also even out their teeth and make their smile more attractive. The results can be invaluable for your child’s self-confidence—both now and well into their adulthood!
Malocclusions can impact the function, health, and appearance of your child’s teeth and jaws, but resolving them is easier than ever before—especially if you seek treatment for your child while they’re still young! More importantly, your child will experience the benefits of this treatment for their entire lifetime. If you’d like to learn more about malocclusions and which treatments might be right for your child, feel free to schedule an appointment at any time with our kids dentist in Waldorf and Prince Frederick, MD!