What Causes Orthodontic Problems? Can they be prevented?

Orthodontic problems are more common than you may think. People are becoming aware of the impact that orthodontic issues can have on their health, and this is reflected in the fact that dental braces are a common sight these days. They used to be something only seen on teenagers, but now it is normal to see children, teens, and even adults in their fifties and sixties wearing braces. With a growing number of people seeking orthodontic treatment, it is valuable to ask: what causes orthodontic problems? Can these conditions be prevented?



Orthodontic problems are called malocclusions, which means “bad bite,” and there are many different issues that can cause a bad bite. Anyone can have an orthodontic problem. In fact, a naturally perfect bite is pretty rare, and most people have imperfect bites. Even if you had a good bite when you were younger, over time your teeth can move into a poor position simply from the force of biting and chewing.


Causes of Orthodontic Problems


A majority of malocclusions are genetic. Some inherited malocclusions are missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth, and too much space between teeth. However, there are times when the problem has a specific cause.


Habits like sucking a thumb, finger, or pacifier past the age of four or biting your nails can cause orthodontic problems. This makes sense because we know that braces gradually move teeth using small amounts of force. Nail-biting and sucking on a thumb, finger, or pacifier is usually something that is done often throughout the day. This means force is being applied consistently, and eventually, teeth will be moved into the position of least resistance for the action. Unfortunately, that position is almost guaranteed to result in a bad bite that can cause many other health problems.


Young children are especially vulnerable to this type of force. Their facial bones are still forming, and their teeth are moving into position and erupting, so repetitive sucking can have a major impact on the formation of their face and mouth. If the bone structure is negatively impacted, it could cause other health issues like mouth breathing and sleep apnea, make it difficult to bite down or chew, and cause speech impediments. Some children are just fine sucking their thumbs long past the age of four, while it makes a major impact on the development of others, and this may be due to genetics. If your child’s teeth and mouth are developing well, you don’t need to worry about their sucking habit. However, if you notice your child’s teeth or mouth are forming poorly, we are happy to help provide advice and resources to help end the habit.


Other than genetics and repetitive motions, there are a large number of causes that may contribute to a malocclusion. Trauma to the mouth, airway obstruction by tonsils or adenoids, mouth breathing, cleft palate, loss of permanent teeth or early loss of primary teeth, poor oral hygiene, dental disease, some birth defects, poor nutrition, and abnormal swallowing may all be contributing factors. You may notice that not many of these things can be prevented. However, early treatment may reduce the impact of quite a few of these problems.


Minimizing Orthodontic Problems


When treated early, some orthodontic problems can be fixed or may minimize the extent of treatment needed later. For example, a narrow palate can cause crowding, breathing problems, and speech difficulties, among other problems. Widening the palate is a relatively simple process when done before a child reaches puberty. However, if attempted after reaching adulthood, it is a much harder process, usually involving surgery, and often produces lesser results than if completed as a child.


Children should receive their first orthodontic evaluation at age 7 because many orthodontic problems will be evident by this time. When treatment is begun early, we can help guide your child’s jaws and teeth into the optimal position. Many children will not need early orthodontic treatment, but for those who do, starting early will be incredibly helpful. If potential problems are noted but do not need early treatment, monitoring the development of your child’s mouth can prevent future complications if the problem begins to worsen as they grow.


Things That May Reveal an Orthodontic Problem Is Present.


As with anything else in your body, signs and symptoms may be an indicator of many different health issues. If you notice any of the following, it is helpful to discuss the issue with your child’s dentist or contact us for a complimentary consultation.


  • Baby teeth that are lost early

  • A baby tooth that is still present after the permanent tooth has erupted

  • Crowded teeth

  • A tooth in the wrong position

  • Missing teeth

  • Protruding teeth

  • Abnormal wearing of tooth enamel

  • Difficulty biting down

  • Difficulty chewing

  • Front teeth that do not meet when biting down

  • Speech problems

  • Grinding or clenching teeth

  • Mouth breathing


While many orthodontic problems are most easily treated in childhood and teenage years, nearly all can be successfully treated at any age. If anyone in your family needs orthodontic treatment, we are happy to help. We specialize in orthodontic treatment for children, teens, and adults, and offer complimentary orthodontic consultations where we conduct a comprehensive screening to determine if you would benefit from treatment. If treatment is necessary, we will create a personalized orthodontic treatment plan so you can understand your options and the steps involved. Everyone deserves a healthy mouth and we want to help you attain yours.


We wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings!


Call us at (480) 759-1119



At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist. Ahwatukee, Phoenix



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