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The 5 Warning Signs that Your Child Needs Braces

Malocclusion—meaning teeth that are crooked or crowded, is often an inherited condition. It’s in the genes, just like any number of other problems can be.  But heredity is certainly not the only cause. Orthodontic problems can come from something as simple as the early loss of baby teeth, thumb-sucking, or an accident.

Having a great smile is definitely more than just a cosmetic issue.  Teeth or jaw misalignment is not acne; your kids won’t just grow out of it. None of this is temporary. It is permanent and certain to get harder to deal with in time.

That is why we created this post: to educate parents on the 5 telling warnings signs that your child needs braces.  While there are many types of orthodontic problems, we will identify the most critical problems that need to be addressed in growing children.

1. Crowding of the Teeth

If you look into your child’s mouth and see that there’s not enough room for teeth to come in, they are going to need braces.  Trying to fit all of the teeth into a mouth that is too small is like trying to put a size ten foot into a size seven shoe.  It’s not going to work.

What happens if it’s left untreated?  Children with severe crowding can often develop “tooth impaction.”  This is a fancy term meaning that the permanent teeth get stuck.  Usually, the last tooth to grow in will get stuck either in the roof of the mouth or in the lower jaw.  To treat impacted teeth, extended orthodontic treatment or surgical uncovering is often required.

How is it treated if caught early?   If the problem is identified by an orthodontist at an early stage, non-invasive treatments can be performed to help the teeth grow into their proper position.  Sometimes, having a baby tooth taken out early can keep the permanent teeth from getting stuck.  Other times, a short period of braces, often 6-8 months, can make enough space to prevent more invasive and costlier treatments later in life.

2. Crossbites

A “crossbite” occurs when the jaw deviates to the side, creating an improper fit of the upper and lower teeth. Crossbites can lead to worn and chipped teeth, jaw pain, and asymmetric growth of the jaws.  You can spot a crossbite by noticing that the chin is not centered with the nose, or that the top front teeth fall behind the lower front teeth.


What happens if it’s left untreated? Crossbites should be treated as soon as possible.  These problems get progressively worse and can cause irreversible problems.  If a child shifts their jaw when they close down, their lower jaw will grow asymmetrically into that position.  This means that their jaw will be permanently crooked. Jaw surgery is usually the only way to correct this as an adult.  If the bite chips or damages the teeth, dental work such as fillings, crowns or root canals will be required.

How is it treated if caught early? Crossbites are very simple and easy to fix in young children.  Four to six months of treatment with an expander is usually enough to fix the problem.  A short period of braces may also be necessary.  Treatment of crossbites is much easier and less invasive if caught early.

3. Thumb-sucking

Thumb-sucking and pacifier use in toddlers and babies is normal behavior.  When these habits continue later in life, than can lead to orthodontic problems.  If your child has a thumb-sucking habit after age five, they may need some help to kick the habit.

What happens if it’s left untreated? The typical signs of a child that sucks their thumb is a very narrow upper jaw, protruded front teeth, and an “open bite” where the upper front teeth don’t touch the lower front teeth.  These problems become increasingly difficult to treat as a child gets older.

How it is treated if caught early? For many children, a non-invasive approach using a bitter-tasting liquid painted on the thumb can be enough to stop the habit.  Other children will require an orthodontic appliance that physically blocks the thumb from touching the roof of the mouth.  The good news is, if we can help stop this habit early, most of the problems fix themselves!  If the habit isn’t caught early enough, some early orthodontic treatment may be required, including an expander and possibly braces.

 4. Teeth that Protrude

Having “buck teeth” or teeth that protrude can cause health problems, safety concerns, and self-esteem issues.  Protruded teeth lead to painful biting of the roof of the mouth and eventually gum recession and tooth damage.  Children with protruded teeth are also at high risk for dental injury.  We see it far too often; a young, rambunctious boy that has tripped and fractured his front teeth on the pavement.  This painful accident is preventable if the protruded teeth are corrected.

Protruded teeth can also lead to self-esteem issues and social problems at school. Unfortunately, at the kid with “buck teeth” can become a target and the harassment can be relentless.  Research has found that 70% of boys suffer harassment over their personal appearance – protruding teeth being one of them.  If a child is feeling embarrassed due to their protruding teeth, this is absolutely a reason to have them treated.

What happens if it’s left untreated?  Protruding teeth won’t fix themselves and they don’t get better with age.  When a child is young and growing, there is a window of opportunity where an orthodontist can use the child’s natural growth to help fix the bite.  If treatment is started too late, this window is missed and more aggressive treatment is needed. This may include extraction of permanent teeth or jaw surgery.

How is it treated if caught early?  Orthodontists are able to use growth appliances that help normalize jaw growth and reduce the severity of a child’s protruding teeth.  Each situation is different, and treatment will be recommended based on each child’s individual needs.  Sometimes the bite can be corrected early using only a growth appliance, other times braces may be needed.

 5. Smile Embarrassment

Some parents feel that “looks aren’t everything,” and they think their kid should just be tough-minded about it and not be overly sensitive. On one level, they may be right! It’s certainly an understandable parental reaction. But, unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Let’s face it: kids can be cruel. From elementary school on, kids look for excuses to humiliate or ostracize the kid who, quote, looks funny.  Kids may not talk to their parents about this either, for fear of being embarrassed at home too, or, frankly, being told to just toughen up. Bullying is a very real, very harmful, even dangerous thing now made far, far worse than when we were kids, by social media online.

What was once confined, is now unrestrained. What was once small—being excluded from a small group by a few kids is now big—being broadcast for the entire school’s population.

What happens if left untreated?  According to a study by the non-profit ConfidenceCoalition.org, 90% of all girls want to change something about their physical appearance, a girl is bullied every 7 seconds in schools across the country, and one out of every four college-age women have an eating disorder fueled by emotional issues. Most teen suicides leave shocked and bewildered parents behind. Many are caused by bullying.

Shaming on social media has become serious, not trivial. Suicide has jumped by 24% in the last decade, with a lot of that in pre-teen, teen, and college-age young people. But even without such a drastic and tragic response, the self-image and self-esteem scars of the early years can carry forward into adult life.

How is it treated if caught early?  You can assure that your daughter or son can face life with confidence.  If needed, proper orthodontic treatment can make that happen.  Delay often makes it more difficult and costly to straighten teeth and end smile embarrassment later.


Exactly What Does an Orthodontist Do?  Is it just putting on braces?

It’s a lot more than that. There are braces for children, clear tooth aligners or Invisalign. But first there is the matter of expert diagnostics.

Depending on a child’s age and needs, your orthodontist may be working with space maintainers to help permanent teeth grow into alignment or retainers to prevent crowding, or even habit appliances to prevent thumb-sucking or nighttime teeth grinding.

Often, there is a customized appliance designed specifically for the patient. Orthodontists also deal with jaw alignment. Your child may only need an appliance or only need braces or need a different treatment. Determining precisely what the best corrective measures are for your daughter’s or son’s needs, for the best possible outcome, is the role of the orthodontist.


How Can I Be CERTAIN That I’m Doing The Right Thing And Choosing The Right Orthodontist?

There aren’t a lot of real guarantees in life. You’ve probably seen the TV ads where a father is talking about the family’s financial advisor with his young son. The son asks, “Do you get your fees back if you’re not happy?” Dad says, “It doesn’t work that way.” The son says, “Maybe it should.” We agree. Why not?

Traditionally, there have been no guarantees in health care. You pay your money, you take your chances. But the orthodontists at Premier Orthodontics are very sure of their ability to provide the ideal smile, dental health and patient experience that you are thrilled with, and that is what you are guaranteed.

If you are not satisfied with your daughter’s, son’s, or your new smile or with your experience as a patient, you simply say so, and your entire investment is refunded. We think this is how life should work.

Further, the quality of the orthodontic work is guaranteed for life with our Platinum Membership plan. If ever the proper teeth alignment originally achieved somehow begins to fail—something that is very rare—we will welcome you back and do all that can be done to correct the problem.

If your daughter or son ever requires orthodontic treatment again, even if the teeth shift because retainers weren’t worn as directed, the needed re-treatment is provided at no charge.

If you think that your child may have one of the five warning signs discussed above, you can schedule a free in-office consultation with one of the orthodontists of Premier Orthodontics.  You can have your questions answered about your child’s orthodontic problems with no obligation or pressure of any kind.

Your Top Rated and Favorite Phoenix Area Orthodontists ...
“Dr. Coles and his staff are caring and professional! I would definitely recommend this office for any orthodontic needs.”
Dana P.
5 star
“Completely different experience then I had as a child at my orthodontist. Its refreshing to have a place that really cares in our small town!”
Charley B.
5 star
“This office is awesome, friendly staff and doctor. I love the free cookies and coffee. I’m going to recommend this place to all my friends and family.”
Erika L.
5 star
“I just started taking my 5yo here and he needed a lot of work. The staff here has done an awesome job of making him comfortable during some tough procedures. After 3 pretty intense visits, he still walks right in with a smile.”
Curt S.
5 star
*The reviews listed are from actual patients of Premier Orthodontics. Individual results may vary. Reviews are not claimed to represent results for everyone.
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