Many parents are curious whether or not their child will need braces. After all, it often requires financial planning to prepare for treatment.
If your child doesn’t have any permanent teeth in yet (approximately under age 7), there are still clues that can indicate future problems with tooth positions. Below are conditions that you or your dentist can observe to roughly predict the need for braces in children approximately 6 years and younger:
- Crowded baby teeth or even perfect teeth with no gaps in between
- The front baby teeth are significantly smaller than the permanent teeth that will replace them. Therefore, spacing of the baby teeth indicates that there will likely be enough room for the permanent teeth without a lot of crowding. A large amount of spaces may point to future spacing of the permanent teeth.
- The lower back teeth are a tooth’s cusp or more behind the upper back teeth
- This is called a “distal step” bite by dentists and indicates that a child will most likely develop the same bite problem in the permanent teeth as in the baby teeth: the lower teeth are too far behind the upper teeth. This can also present with having the upper front teeth stick out too far in front of the lower teeth.
- The back of the lower back teeth are more than 1 millimeter in front of the back edge of the upper back teeth.
- This is called a “mesial step” bite by dentists and it predicts that these children may develop a tendency for having an underbite. (An underbite exists when the lower front teeth are biting in front of the upper front teeth.)
Other factors to consider in children and teenagers of all ages:
- Family history of a small or a large chin/lower jaw
- Bite problems are frequently caused by a discrepancy in the growth between the upper and lower jaws. If a family member has this disproportion evident, there’s a chance your child may also develop it. It may be beneficial to undergo a limited orthodontic treatment when some baby are still present, followed by a comprehensive braces treatment once all the permanent teeth are in or when their jaws are done growing (this depends on the type of bite problem: consult with your orthodontist before deciding to wait until all the permanent teeth are in or until the late teen years!).
- Thumb sucking that persists past middle childhood can affect the way the upper jaw grows. This can create a crossbite of the back teeth and the inability to close the front teeth. Finger biting and tongue thrusting (when the tongue moves forward when swallowing) can all have a similar negative effect on the development of your child’s jaws and bite.