Identifying And Correcting Misalignments In Children

As parents, we know a lot about our kids. From their favorite foods to where they always leave their gym shoes, most of us take pride in how well we can anticipate anything our children may need. That may not extend to their smile, however! Here at New England Orthodontic Specialists, we often hear from parents wondering if their child’s teeth need a little help. Maybe they’re slightly crooked. They could have a noticeable overbite. Whatever the cause for concern, these parents are looking for reassurance served with a side of expert knowledge. Fortunately, that’s something our team is really good at!

There are several factors we consider when determining if a child needs orthodontic treatment. This includes how old they are, how their teeth and jaws are aligned, and the kind of results we’re hoping to achieve. The first step in this process is an evaluation with Dr. Diana or Dr. Neil, something the American Association of Orthodontists recommends for every child by the time they’re seven years old.

These visits have an important role to play in a child’s oral health. At this age, most children will have enough dental “landmarks” in place that an experienced orthodontist can examine their teeth, jaw, and bite to ensure everything is developing normally. They’ll also be looking out for some common orthodontic conditions during this initial consultation. It can be helpful to understand a bit more about these problems and how we can successfully correct them, so keep reading to learn more!

Crowded teeth

Brushing and flossing regularly is an essential part of maintaining a healthy mouth. Unfortunately, crowded teeth can make this more difficult than it has to be, increasing the risk of cavities and tooth decay. If your child has crowded teeth that make it hard to brush and floss effectively, orthodontic treatment can move them into better positions over time. This will give them a more evenly spaced smile that’s easier to clean! Treatment can also lessen any facial tension and relieve chewing or speech difficulties.

Gapped teeth

Gaps in teeth are common in childhood and can happen for a variety of reasons. These include genetics, thumb or finger sucking, and extended bottle or pacifier use. If your child has a bit too much space between their teeth, our doctors will be able to identify the underlying cause and address it with a personalized treatment plan. This will help close the gaps and improve the overall appearance of their smile.

Missing teeth

Sometimes a more noticeable gap exists between a child’s teeth because of congenitally missing teeth that never grew in. This type of gap may also be created when permanent teeth are lost due to injury or disease. If your child has experienced this, we can use braces to move the existing teeth into the proper positions. Your family dentist can then place a bonded bridge or implant to fill the gap formed from the missing tooth.

With this approach, we’re able to create an evenly-spaced smile for your child that feels more functional and looks great, too! We may also use braces sometimes to completely close the spaces left from missing teeth. This means no restorations are needed once treatment is complete. While this may take a little longer, it eliminates the need and cost for costly future dental treatment!

Open bite

With an open bite, the upper and lower rows of the front teeth don’t touch or close when the child is smiling or chewing. Many open bite cases come from extended thumb sucking in childhood, which can cause the teeth to grow into a noticeably rounded formation.

Whatever the root cause, we’ll generally treat an open bite by combining braces or clear aligners with an appliance known as a “blue grass roller.” This device prevents the tongue from putting pressure against the anterior teeth when swallowing, training it to swallow correctly in the process.

Once this treatment is complete, your child will enjoy an aligned bite that allows them to close their teeth properly and enjoy all their favorite foods with ease.

Deep overbite

Out of all the bite disorders, a deep overbite is the most detrimental to the teeth and health of the jaw joints. When a child has a deep overbite, the lower teeth recede so far behind the upper teeth that they bite into the roof of the mouth. The upper front teeth also overlap the lower front teeth. This can sometimes impact the shape and appearance of a patient’s face as well.

Depending on how complex the case is, treatment for a deep overbite may require orthodontics and restorative dentistry together, or we may be able to correct it with orthodontics alone. This will improve the functionality of your child’s teeth and dramatically improve their smile’s appearance!


An underbite occurs when the bottom teeth protrude in front of the upper teeth. This type of bite misalignment can cause pain at the jaw joint, and the angled pressure can wear down some of the front teeth. Children with underbites have quite a few treatment options available to them, including:

  • an upper jaw expander, which can be widened nightly until treatment is complete
  • a reverse-pull face mask, which wraps around the head and attaches to metal bands on the back upper teeth to pull the upper jaw forward
  • traditional braces to adjust the misaligned teeth

Treating an underbite successfully will help relieve any pain and discomfort, making it easier for your child to smile, eat, and even breathe better!


Overjets are often called “buck teeth” and describe the top front teeth protruding far beyond the bottom front teeth. It’s most effectively treated when diagnosed early, as this allows us to guide a child’s tooth eruption and use their growth to our advantage. The child’s age and specific needs will determine what treatment approach we take, but options will often include braces, bite correction devices, and removable orthodontic appliances. In some cases, tooth removal or surgery may be necessary for the best results.


Give your child’s smile some TLC with New England Orthodontic Specialists

Have you been wondering if your child could benefit from orthodontic treatment? If so, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at how their smile is developing so far! Our talented team works hard to give North Shore families a stress-free experience from the first appointment to the last—and beyond. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with our BeverlyTopsfieldSouth Hamilton, or Salem office!