Things About Your Growing Child’s Mouth That Your Orthodontist Knows That You Probably Don’t

close up of child's smile

There’s much to know about your child’s dental development and care. Dr. Jhon McDonald has decades of experience in helping kids’ dental development. Here at McDonald Orthodontics, we want to help everyone achieve the smile of their dreams.

We also want to help parents understand as much as they need to help their children grow healthy and avoid problems with dental health. Please keep in mind that orthodontic treatment can help maintain good oral hygiene with much ease and keep your kid’s dental health as optimal as possible.

Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions and a few things you might not know about your child’s mouth and dental development.

1. About Your Kid’s Jaw Growth

After about age six, the lower jaw does not get any wider, and the way it grows does not create any additional room or erupt permanent teeth. By age 6, your kid’s jaw won’t stop growing.

What Does This Mean?

This means that if your kid starts showing signs of crowded teeth, they will continue to have their problem worsen. Children, nor any other individual, can grow out of their crowded teeth as they age.

Doesn’t the Jaw Get Larger as the Child Matures Into an Adult?

Yes, both jaws get larger, but they only grow in the area behind the six-year molars. Think of a dining room table that is sticking out of your wall with six place settings on it. The only way to make that table bigger is by pulling it out of the wall. However, it doesn’t create more room in the area where the places are already set; it only creates more room for additional place settings behind the ones that are already there.

2. Crooked Teeth Worsen as We Age

Crooked teeth always get worse as a child gets older. This is because the way the teeth come in causes this to happen. Even adults who’ve had minor dental malalignment might find themselves with crooked teeth as they age, as teeth move naturally with age. But let’s get back to the discussion about children and younger patients.

How Can This Be?

Whenever teeth come into the mouth, they always move towards the front of the mouth. In fact, there is a slow continuous pressure pushing teeth toward the front of the mouth throughout the patient’s lifetime. This constant forward pressure and movement is the main reason that teeth tend to get more crowded with age, both in children and adults. This is the same principle behind the way braces work. Constant pressure in a specific direction is what gradually realigns teeth. Moving teeth is not hard, which is why kids who suck their thumbs for too long, or maintain the bad habit of tongue thrusting, develop crooked teeth.

What Does This Mean for Orthodontic Treatment?

In certain cases where teeth are crowded, orthodontists can place simple holding wires to prevent the forward movement of teeth and preserve space that would otherwise be lost, thus lessening the amount of overall crowding that would otherwise occur when all of the permanent teeth have come in.

Preventing this additional crowding can sometimes have major implications for a patient’s orthodontic treatment. For example, it can prevent the need for the removal of permanent teeth in certain types of patients.

3. Wisdom Teeth and Braces

Wisdom teeth, otherwise known as third molars, are a set of teeth that cause much concern for parents and young adults alike. Many patients fear that wisdom teeth can shift their teeth and ruin their smile. We’re glad to confirm to patients that this is not the case; wisdom teeth cannot cause dental crowding.

Do Wisdom Teeth Cause Any Problems?

Yes. Wisdom teeth can cause several problems for your dental health. The real problem with third molars is that, in most cases, most people don’t have enough space for the eruption of these teeth, trapping the molars under the gum line and causing what we identify as impacted wisdom teeth. This problem develops into dangerous dental infections and abscesses that could prove life-threatening.

Should a Patient Wear Braces Before or After Wisdom Teeth?

Considering that your wisdom teeth won’t ruin your dental alignment, you should wear braces as soon as possible. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends children visit an orthodontist by age 7. Your kid should wear braces as soon as possible whenever required, meaning that teenagers should complete their dental alignment treatment before the eruption of wisdom teeth when it’s much easier and more comfortable to reposition teeth and realign jaws.

4. Your Kids’ Teeth Are More Important Than You Might Think

Unfortunately, many parents quickly dismiss the importance of baby teeth. The ideal scenario is that kids receive as much help as required to maintain good dental health and avoid any problems or accidents until their primary teeth fall naturally, allowing the permanent teeth to erupt normally.

However, some parents underestimate the importance of good oral hygiene for kids and let some teeth suffer from tooth decay and prematurely fall off.

What Does This Mean for Orthodontics?

When children experience premature tooth loss, they run the risk of developing additional orthodontic conditions, such as crowding and other dental spacing problems. When your kid has these problems, you can bring them to an orthodontist and help prevent the worsening of their tooth crowding.

A Take-Home Message for Parents

Children with crowded teeth should visit the orthodontist as soon as the parent notices that the teeth are crowded. Sometimes crowding can be seen when the first two permanent teeth come in.

Remember, teeth never get less crowded as children get older. This is part of the reason the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that patients be screened by age seven by a qualified orthodontist.

If you see crowding in your child’s teeth, you do not need to wait for your dentist to refer you to an orthodontist. Just know that Dr. John McDonald can have the greatest impact and do the most to minimize the amount of orthodontic treatment your child will have to undergo the earlier he sees the patient.

To schedule your free orthodontic evaluation, please call our Salem orthodontic office today at (503) 585-5400.