What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early treatment benefit my child?
Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and poor bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.
The sucking reflex is natural in early childhood; it usually disappears between ages 2 and 4. But if it persists much later, the pressure of the digit on the front teeth and the upper jaw can actually cause the teeth to move apart and the jaws to change shape. This can lead to the orthodontic problem called “open bite,” and may impair speech. An open bite can also be caused by the force of the tongue pushing forward against the teeth (tongue thrusting).
Children’s jaws are rich in blood supply and grow rapidly. They are also relatively soft and flexible, especially in kids under the age of eight. So it really isn’t hard for the constant pressure of a thumb or finger to deform the soft bone around the upper and lower front teeth. Children who are particularly vigorous thumb suckers are even more likely to change the growth patterns of the teeth and jaws.
This can result in misalignment of the teeth, an anterior open bite (where the front teeth fail to close together), collapse of the upper jaw causing crossbite, or other problems. That’s why it is important to stop the behavior at an appropriate time, before damage occurs.
Various orthodontic treatments are available to help correct parafunctional habits, and the sooner they’re taken care of, the less damage they may cause. But these potential problems aren’t always easy to recognize. That’s one more reason to bring your child in for an early orthodontic screening.