Nobody likes to have braces to correct an overbite or a crossbite. So often, the age when people have braces is right in the middle of those awkward teenage years. Already feeling self-conscious about their appearance, most teenagers dread the thought of having braces.

But if a crossbite or overbite develops, it really is in their best interest to have the issue addressed. And the earlier it is looked after the better. That means if you see the signs of developing bite problems in your child, the sooner you have them looked after, the quicker they can be corrected.

There is no one single cause for a child to develop problems with his/her bite. It may be a hereditary issue. Sometimes, adult permanent teeth erupt before the baby teeth have fallen out. The jaw may respond by slipping in a different direction to accommodate the extra row of teeth.  The longer this situation is allowed to persist, the greater the likelihood of your child developing a crossbite or overbite.

Children who are mouth breathers are more likely to develop problems with their bite. Normal breathing through the nose allows the tongue to rest in its normal position along the roof of the mouth. When mouth breathing occurs, the tongue falls away from this position and the lateral development of the jaw is adversely affected.

Often, enlarged tonsils can be the cause of mouth breathing. If that is a problem for your child, you may need to have it addressed before treating the bite. In fact, you may have to consider removing the tonsils before treating the bite.

A similar problem occurs in children who suck their thumbs. Thumbsucking also affects the lateral development of the jaw and can result in problems with a child’s bite. Many children find thumb sucking to be comforting and a difficult habit to break. But if you can find a way to break your child’s habit, they will thank you down the road!

Bite problems usually do require orthodontic treatment. The severity of the problem will determine the nature of the treatment. Minor problems may be dealt with far more easily than you might expect!

Regardless, we strongly recommend that you obtain whatever treatment you require. Not only are there the obvious cosmetic concerns about crossbites and overbites. There are very real health issues as well.

People with a poor bite may find it difficult to chew some of the more nutritious, whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables. As a result, they may elect not to eat these foods, thereby denying themselves of the health benefits they provide. Bite problems can also lead to serious TMJ problems, with persistent headaches.

So if you notice your child’s teeth are not coming together the way you think they should, mention it to your dentist. The sooner you address bite problems, the easier they are to correct. And maintaining a proper bite is a healthy habit…and healthier habits lead to healthier lives.

Dr. Bao Nguyen

Dental Surgeon