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Braces are important not only for aesthetic reasons but for health reasons as well. A poorly aligned bite or overcrowded teeth make it difficult to eat, speak, and keep the teeth clean.

Childhood is the perfect time for dental work. Rapid growth makes the process easier and quicker and typically leads to better results. Spotting signs that your child might need braces — along with taking them for regular checkups starting at about one year — can help avoid painful or expensive issues later on.

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Experiencing Discomfort or Pain During Mealtimes

The first hint that a child is experiencing bite issues often arises during mealtime. A child who has trouble eating certain foods or complains of pain when eating should be seen by a dentist, as a problem is likely.

There are a variety of causes of mouth pain while eating, so it is important to see a dentist or an orthodontist for a diagnosis.

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Noticeable Mismatch in Bite

A child may not have trouble eating but still have issues with their bite. If you can see visual signs that your child's bite — how their top and bottom teeth meet — doesn't line up, schedule an orthodontic consultation.

Most orthodontists prefer to see children young, and the American Academy of Orthodontics recommends an initial visit at the age of seven. While treatment may not start for several years, early intervention provides more options.

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Overcrowding

Another sign that is easy to observe is overcrowding in the mouth. If the teeth overlap, push each other forward, or otherwise appear to take up more room than the child has in their mouth, a dental appointment is essential, and braces may be in order.

Overcrowding often becomes noticeable as the child loses their primary teeth and the permanent teeth begin to come in.

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Breathing Through the Mouth

This is a sign to listen for, rather than look for. If you notice your child breathing through their mouth on a regular basis, they may need braces. Occasional mouth breathing, such as when a child is sick and their head is stopped up, is normal. If it happens frequently it may indicate problems in the mouth.

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Sucking on Fingers

If your child sucked their fingers or thumb frequently as a youngster, this may have prompted their upper teeth to grow forward and their lower teeth to become crowded. Most children naturally stop sucking on their hands before the age of 4, but if it goes on longer or they were particularly reliant on this as a soothing method, orthodontic intervention may be required.

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Different Tooth Loss Schedule Than Peers

Each child has their own schedule for losing and growing teeth, and minor fluctuations aren't necessarily worrisome. However, if your child's tooth-loss schedule varies widely from the traditional timeline, it could indicate a problem. Baby teeth that come out too early give the remaining teeth time to shift before the adult teeth grow in. Baby teeth that remain stubbornly in place create issues with spacing and alignment in the growing mouth.

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The Teeth or Jaws Look Disproportionate

Sometimes you just know something is not quite right. If your child's teeth or jaw look out of proportion to the rest of their face and head, they may benefit from orthodontic treatment. It is normal for a young child with newly erupted adult teeth to look a little disproportionate. A change that looks significantly different than their peers may indicate issues.

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Noises from the Jaw

Clicking, cracking, popping or any other interesting noises coming from the jaw may indicate that your child has a misaligned bite. Whether the noise only happens occasionally or nearly every time they open their mouth, it is worth pointing out to their dentist. Again, an early consultation can save time and money when it comes to treatment options.

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Frequently Biting the Cheek or Tongue

Occasionally biting the tongue or inside of the cheek is normal, particularly during physical activities. However, more frequent injuries, particularly when eating or concentrating on a quiet project, may be a clue that your child's teeth are misaligned.

Even a relatively minor misalignment can increase the risk of decay and gum disease, as well as make it more difficult to chew, breathe, and speak.

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Grinding Teeth

Sounds of tooth grinding while your child is sleeping can be an early clue that something is going on with their bite. Tooth grinding can develop for a number of reasons, but one frequent cause is misalignment. Left untreated, tooth grinding will damage the teeth and cause additional alignment issues.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.