Teens and Crooked Teeth: What Every Parent Needs to Know
Parents only want the best for their children. If you’re a parent, you certainly agree with this statement. You want your child to grow up happy, healthy, and confident. But many things can hold them back from achieving your goals for them, including crooked teeth. When teeth are not straight, your child may want to hide their teeth, choosing not to smile.
Crooked teeth, especially in teens, can impact self-esteem. Having misaligned teeth, though, is not unusual. It’s pretty common in children, teens, and adults. Fortunately, straightening teeth has become so easy. Many options are available to help improve your teen’s overall oral health whilst also increasing their self-confidence.
But First, What Causes Crooked Teeth?
Crooked or misaligned teeth can happen for several reasons. The biggest cause, however, is genetics. Take a look at your teeth or your partner’s. Perhaps you also had crooked teeth in your childhood. If you ever had braces or any other form of orthodontic treatment when you were younger, chances are your child also needs it.
If you have always had straight teeth, though, there are other causes of crooked teeth, including:
- Prolonged thumb sucking
- Extended use of pacifiers
- Mouth injuries, such as when playing sports or accidents
Baby and permanent teeth can both erupt in the wrong place and position in the mouth. It’s not common for babies to have crooked teeth, but it can happen because their teeth can be too small for the available gum space. The good news is that having crooked baby teeth does not mean teeth will stay that way. However, if baby teeth are crowded together when they erupted, permanent teeth will likely be misaligned, as well. Here’s a blog post that details tooth eruption and what could go wrong.
Other reasons why teeth crookedness occurs are:
- Small jaw size, causing teeth to have less space to grow
- Habitual mouth breathing
- Tongue thrusting
- Malocclusion or when the jaws are misaligned, causing teeth issues such as in overbites and underbites
- Gum disease
- Untreated gum disease
- Poor nutrition
- Facial injuries causing teeth to get knocked out of place
Avoiding yearly visits to the dentist can also result in misaligned teeth. That’s because gum disease and cavities can lead to several dental health problems, including premature tooth loss and crooked teeth.
Is There Anything You Can Do to Prevent Teeth Misalignment?
By knowing what causes crooked teeth, it’s possible to prevent crooked teeth in children. It starts with losing baby teeth. Typically, toddlers lose their first tooth around the age of six. If a tooth begins to wiggle and fall out before that, it can cause misalignment because the surrounding teeth will start moving towards the space. Some children also have a small jaw, which you cannot do anything about. However, there are preventative steps you can take to ensure teeth can grow straight, such as:
- Educating kids to stop biting their nails or anything hard like pens and ice
- Eliminating other habits that impact teeth, including blowing gum bubbles
- Fixing gaps when teeth begin to fall out
- Avoiding resting the head on the hands to prevent uneven jaw pressure, which contributes to unwanted teeth movement
- Advising your kids to sleep on their backs, not on their stomach to avoid putting repeated stress on the jaw
Wisdom teeth can begin to grow around the age of 17. If your teen already has a wisdom tooth, you may want to have it checked with your orthodontist to determine whether or not it should be removed. It can help address or even prevent overcrowding issues that could occur in their later years.
The Ideal Age to See an Orthodontist
For most people, getting misaligned teeth corrected is a must, but the question is when? As with any condition, crooked teeth should be checked and treated early. But when should you take your daughter or son to the orthodontist? Is there a “right” age for the treatment? The short answer is there is no “best” time or age for your child to go to the orthodontist’s office. Part of your responsibility as the child’s parent is to keep an eye on their teeth. The bite alignment is also essential. Make sure that the upper and lower teeth meet but do not overlap.
Take note of the changes that you see. It’s always best to go to an orthodontist right away, especially if you suspect something wrong. Don’t wait to make an appointment if you notice that your child has misaligned teeth.
All in all, there is no definitive answer when it comes to the age for treating crooked teeth. However, orthodontists agree that children should have their first orthodontic appointment around the age of seven. Some believe that the ideal time to start with braces is from 10 to 14 years old. During this period, the young person’s mouth and head are still developing. Therefore, teeth tend to be more conducive to the straightening procedure.
If you see an orthodontic issue before that age, you don’t need to wait. Schedule the visit to know the appropriate treatment for your child.
Why Should Crooked Teeth Be Treated in Teens?
Misaligned teeth as a teen are more than just an aesthetic problem. Teeth, as you may already know, play a massive role in how you speak. They are also responsible for how you chew your food. Teeth that are misaligned can either be too far apart or too close together. That means there’s always a risk of food getting trapped between the teeth.
The trapped pieces can be difficult to remove, even with brushing and flossing. Because food often gets stuck between the teeth, it increases the risk of tooth decay. Having a straight smile is nice, but it also helps improve overall oral health.
Teens who get their crooked teeth treated can prevent damage that can occur due to misalignment. An example is for people with an incorrect bite, which increases the pressure on specific parts of the teeth. It can result in difficulty in chewing food. Worse, the teeth can develop fractures over time. If left untreated, teeth can get damaged, causing them to break completely. That’s why fixing crooked teeth while still young can save a lot of trouble in the future.
And last but certainly not the least of all the reasons why teenagers should get their crooked teeth fixed is for their self-confidence. As young people grow, they want to feel comfortable with their appearance. Whilst no one should let their misaligned teeth stop them from doing what they love, teens often feel awkward smiling. For instance, they stop themselves from smiling when taking pictures or avoid the activity altogether. And that’s unfortunate because teen years come with exciting events, such as prom night. In these situations, your son or daughter would certainly want to flash their pearly whites.
Many teenagers also do not want to talk to other people. If social interaction is unavoidable, they try to hide their smile by covering their mouths when speaking. It’s not fun, and you surely don’t want that for your child.
Options for Correcting Crooked Teeth
Now that you understand that correcting misaligned teeth is beneficial, you’re ready to encourage your child or teen to start the treatment. One of the most crucial parts of the journey is to decide which orthodontic appliance is best for their case. Most people are ideal candidates for traditional braces, the ones with metal wires and brackets. However, metal braces are not the only choices around. Let’s delve deeper to help you and your child make the right decision:
1. Traditional Metal Braces
You’re probably already familiar with this type of orthodontic appliance. Metal braces consist of wires and brackets that stay on the teeth until the end of the treatment. For teens who are busy and forgetful, the traditional option may be the appropriate choice. These braces do not require your child to remove them when eating or to clean the mouth. They are also the most effective since they work with almost any case, regardless of its complexity.
Of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, people with severe gum disease are not encouraged to wear metal braces. The treatment can cause the gum to recede and become more sensitive. Patients with serious tooth decay or cavities are advised to have them treated first before getting braces. People prone to tooth decay should read our blog post on this topic.
Traditional metal braces are quite visible, though. If your teen has high aesthetic needs, this type of orthodontic appliance may not be the most suitable option.
2. Clear Aligners
This treatment has revolutionised teeth straightening. Clear aligners use trays that are fitted over the teeth, applying gentle pressure in areas that require movement. Teens who do not want to wear metal in their mouths usually prefer clear aligners because they are virtually invisible. Plus, they can be removed for easier brushing and cleaning. However, some orthodontists do not recommend them for teens because they might forget where they placed the aligners. Even though they are removable, they should be consistently worn, usually for about 22 hours per day. Otherwise, the treatment can take longer and may even not be effective.
Clear aligners work for mild to moderate cases of crooked teeth. If your teen has severely misaligned teeth, the orthodontist will most likely recommend other treatments, such as traditional braces.
3. Ceramic Braces
Ceramic braces are just like traditional metal braces. The main difference is that the brackets are made from tooth-coloured materials that easily blend with the wearer’s smile. It’s like a combination of clear aligners and metal braces. You can see the braces when up close, but they are an excellent option for people looking for a more discreet yet effective form of treatment, especially for severe misalignment.
4. Lingual Braces
Here’s another option for crooked teeth that need metal braces for treatment. Instead of having the braces on the front of the teeth, lingual braces are attached to the back, keeping them hidden from view. Therefore, the visible part of the person’s smile remains appliance-free.
Lingual braces are an excellent option, even for those with severe malocclusion. However, your teen should understand that this type of braces requires extra effort in keeping them clean. The braces also tend to interfere with the ability to speak.
How to Choose the Best Treatment for Misaligned Teeth
It would certainly be great if your child could select the type of orthodontic appliance that they like. But the truth is that there are a few considerations when deciding on the treatment. The orthodontist could recommend several options depending on the needs of your child and the following factors:
- Teeth Alignment: The way the teeth are aligned in the mouth is the most important deciding factor. If there are severe gaps and overlapping, more intensive treatment is generally required. It will take longer, as well. Major misalignments could use traditional braces and other options like palatal expanders before moving on to straightening methods. In special cases, the treatment is performed in phases.
- Commitment: Let’s face it. Teens can be stubborn. It’s already hard for some people to take care of their teeth without orthodontic appliances in their mouths, but it gets even more complicated once the treatment starts. The patient has to add at least one more step into their oral hygiene routine in many instances. That’s why they must understand the whole process and the importance of following the orthodontist’s guidelines.
- Cost: Braces are not cheap. You may want to stick to a particular price range to avoid going over your budget. Most options have similar charges, but traditional metal braces tend to be less expensive. The severity of the case also adds to the total price of the treatment.
- Lifestyle: Some kids are active. For example, if your child participates in contact sports, clear aligners may be a better option. Mouth injuries can get worse if there are brackets and wires on the teeth.
Once the type of appliance is chosen, your teen enters the next phase of the treatment. Some mild discomfort may be felt, but it shouldn’t be painful. If there are any issues, always talk to the orthodontist. Regular visits are also a part of ensuring that the teeth are shifting to their correct positions.