Tooth misalignment is often passed down from one generation to the next. However, oral
habits and dental issues during childhood can also play a role in the development of a
problem bite, a condition known as malocclusion.
For some patients, even radical orthodontic treatment is insufficient for correcting
significant jaw or tooth misalignment. Instead, they must undergo oral surgery
(known as orthognathic surgery) to resolve the problem.
Malocclusion may not be preventable, but fortunately, parents can take steps to
minimize the severity of tooth misalignment in young children and — hopefully — avoid
the need for surgical tooth alignment.
Schedule an Oral Exam When the First Tooth Erupts
Many parents and caregivers wait too long to take their young children in for an oral
exam, believing that the baby teeth aren’t that important, since they’ll eventually be
replaced with permanent teeth.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association both
say that children should have their first oral exam within six months after the first
baby tooth pops through the gums, but no later than the first birthday.
An oral exam offers an opportunity for an early diagnosis of cavities, late-arriving
primary teeth and other factors that could lead to jaw and tooth misalignment. So don’t
wait. As soon as you see the first baby tooth erupt, call to schedule a professional oral
exam for your child.
Curb Problems that Lead to Tooth Misalignment
Certain childhood oral habits can be problematic to the development of a proper bite.
Thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and the prolonged use of a pacifier or bottle can cause
tooth malocclusion, as these habits put pressure on the teeth. Forceful sucking is more
likely to result in a bite problem.
The larger concern comes when the adult teeth begin to emerge. Once the baby teeth
are gone, the damage has a greater potential to become permanent.
Your pediatrician, along with your oral surgeon or orthodontist, can offer tips on curbing
childhood oral habits that lead to malocclusion of the teeth and jaws.
Treating Children at Risk for Tooth Misalignment
In some children, the primary teeth stick around longer than they should, creating a
problem for the incoming permanent teeth. To prevent overcrowding and to make room
in the gums, your orthodontist or oral surgeon may recommend strategic, proactive tooth
In addition, dental space-maintaining appliances may be used to guide the permanent
teeth into the proper position as they grow. These space maintainers can prevent the
teeth from shifting inappropriately and becoming misaligned.
Young children who lose teeth early due to decay, injury or trauma are also at risk for
tooth malocclusion, and may need professional assistance to avoid developing a
The experienced oral surgeons at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah can help
preserve your child’s smile for the future. Call one of our convenient Salt Lake City-area
offices to schedule an appointment today to learn how we can minimize jaw and tooth
misalignment in your young child.