1. After about age six, the lower jaw does not get any wider and the way it grows does not create any additional room or erupting permanent teeth.
What does this mean?
This means that crowded teeth only become more crowded. Children do not grow out of their crowded teeth as they mature into adults.
How can this be? 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 always get worse as a child gets older. This is because the way the teeth come in causes this to happen.
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 towards the front of the mouth throughout the patient’s lifetime. This constant forward movement is the main reason that teeth tend to get more crowded with age both in children and adults.
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.
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.
If you see crowding in your child’s teeth, you do not need to wait for your dentist to refer you to the 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.