Orthodontic Overview and Common Conditions

By: J. Shahangian, DDS, MS- San Diego Board Certified Pediatric Dentist

Orthodontics Overview
Orthodontics is a specialized field of dentistry that deals with the correcting teeth alignment to better the overall oral health and facial structure of your child.

Here is a list of ways which orthodontic treatment will help your child.

  • Improves some speech problems
  • Lessens the treatment time for later corrective orthodontics
  • Diminishes the risk of damage to overjet upper teeth
  • Improves eruption patterns
  • Ensures the correct width of dental arches
  • Influences proper jaw growth
  • Reduces the chances of impacted teeth
  • Diminishes the chance of damage to the jaw joint
  • Creates a reserve or place holder for the erupting permanent teeth
  • Improves lip closure
  • Guides permanent teeth into the proper

“Malocclusion” is a misalignment of the teeth and may be caused by a misaligned jaw, missing teeth, extra teeth, or having crowded teeth.  Malocclusions, also known as “bad bite”, is mainly genetic, but may be a result losing teeth in accident, losing teeth too late or too early, or not having adequate oral habits for long periods of time.

Usually, children between the ages of 10-14 use braces to correct orthodontic problems.  The reason why braces are worn at this age is due to your child’s teeth development because at this age, your child’s teeth are still malleable and able to be straightened out.  However, more and more, patients of all ages are benefiting from orthodontic treatments to improve their smiles.  Early diagnosis can help bypass full orthodontic treatment.  (If the orthodontist concludes that your child needs braces, it is important to first consult your child because braces can cause emotional damage due to your child’s sensitivity towards his/her appearance.)

Common Conditions
Here is a list of common condition your child may have that can fixed by doing orthodontic treatment:

  • Crowded teeth – This may be caused by erupted teeth that are too large or/and a small dental arch.  Crowded teeth can cause receding gum lines because the crowded teeth make the gums thin and thus they recede.
  • Impacted teeth – Impacted teeth refers to wisdom teeth that are not able to grow in properly, do not have healthy gums, and lack the proper bite relationship.  Often times, wisdom teeth become impacted and require extraction or being pulled.  Another danger is impacted teeth can cause improper bite relationship.
  • Protruding upper teeth – The main cause for protruding front teeth is finger or thumb sucking during childhood.  The clinical term is “overjet”, and refers the upper front teeth protruding forward.  This condition can have serious problems because the front teeth are not able to have contact with the bottom teeth, and are more able to be knocked out, broken, or chipped.  A possible indication of overjet teeth is a poor bite relationship of the back molars, and more importantly, uneven jaw growth.
  • Deep overbite– “Deep bite”, also known as deep overbite, refers to the bottom teeth (lower incisors) either biting into or too close to the gums behind the upper teeth.     Significant bone damage can occur if the lower incisors bite the gums or palate behind the upper incisors.  In addition, this causes wearing down of the incisor teeth.
  • Underbite– The condition known as “underbite”, refers to lower jaw protrusion, and only occurs in a small fraction of children.  Children with underbite have a longer lower jaw compared to the upper jaw.  A “crossbite” is created due to the protrusion of the lower front teeth.  The orthodontist will monitor the tooth and jaw growth of your child and will recommend the proper treatment.
  • Open bite – The term open bite refers to the inability of the lower and the upper incisors making contact while biting down.  Pressure is placed on the back teeth during chewing.  This causes substantial tooth wear and makes chewing less efficient.
  • Spacing – The term spacing refers to excess space in between teeth.  This can be caused by a lost tooth or having small teeth, or having a wide dental arch.  For the most part, the only dental problem associated with this is a poor aesthetic appearance.
  • Crossbite – “Crossbite” is a common orthodontic condition where the upper bite crosses over the lower bite.  If caught early, this condition can be easily fixed.[1]

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