5 Common Orthodontic Issues in Children and How to Address Them

When it comes to your child’s smile, early orthodontic care can make a world of difference. Catching and treating issues early not only helps prevent more serious problems down the road but also sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy, confident smiles. 

At Pendleton Orthodontics, we specialize in pediatric orthodontic care, understanding the unique needs and concerns that come with treating young patients.

In this article, we’ll dive into some of the most common orthodontic issues children face and provide insights on how to address them effectively. 

1. Crowded Teeth

Crowded teeth are a common orthodontic issue in children and can occur for several reasons, including a lack of space in the jaw, early loss of baby teeth, or the teeth being larger than the available jaw space. 

When teeth don’t have enough room to align properly, they can overlap, twist, and become more difficult to clean. This can lead to increased risks of cavities, gum disease, and even tooth decay.

In some cases, braces might be necessary to correct crowded teeth. Braces apply gentle pressure over time to move teeth into their proper positions. 

By addressing crowded teeth early, it helps ensure that your child’s teeth have the space they need to grow straight and strong. This not only improves their smile but also makes it easier for them to maintain excellent oral health as they grow.

2. Overbite

An overbite is when the upper front teeth significantly overlap the lower front teeth. While a slight overlap is normal, a pronounced overbite can lead to various issues. Common causes of an overbite include genetic factors, prolonged thumb sucking, and extended use of pacifiers or bottles during early childhood.

Children with an untreated overbite may experience several complications, such as difficulty biting and chewing, speech impediments, and jaw pain. Additionally, an overbite can lead to excessive wear on the lower teeth and even gum damage. 

It’s essential to address this issue early to prevent long-term problems and ensure proper jaw development.

3. Underbite

An underbite occurs when the lower front teeth extend beyond the upper front teeth. This misalignment can be caused by various factors, including genetic influences, disproportionate jaw growth, or habits such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. 

An underbite can affect a child’s appearance, but more importantly, it can lead to functional problems.

Children with an underbite may experience difficulties with chewing and speaking. An untreated underbite can also cause excessive wear on the teeth, jaw pain, and even contribute to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders

Addressing an underbite early is crucial to prevent these complications and ensure proper jaw development.

4. Crossbite

A crossbite occurs when the upper teeth sit inside the lower teeth when the mouth is closed. This misalignment can affect a single tooth or multiple teeth and can be either anterior (front teeth) or posterior (back teeth). 

Crossbites are often caused by genetic factors, delayed loss of baby teeth, or habits such as prolonged thumb sucking and mouth breathing.

If left untreated, a crossbite can lead to various issues. 

These can include:

  • Uneven tooth wear
  • Gum disease
  • Jaw pain
  • Asymmetrical jaw growth

It can also cause difficulties with chewing and speaking. Addressing a crossbite early is crucial to prevent these complications and ensure proper dental and jaw development.

For younger children, a palatal expander is often recommended. This device is placed in the upper jaw and gradually widens it over time, helping to shift the teeth into their correct positions. Expanders are particularly effective in children because their jaws are still growing and more adaptable.

In addition to expanders, braces can be used to correct a crossbite by moving the teeth into proper alignment. For milder cases, clear aligners may also be an option. These are custom-made trays that gradually shift the teeth into the desired position.

5. Thumb Sucking and Its Effects

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for infants and young children, often used as a source of comfort and security. However, prolonged thumb sucking beyond the age of four or five can lead to several orthodontic issues and negatively impact the development of your child’s oral health.

One of the most common problems associated with thumb sucking is the misalignment of teeth. 

This habit can cause the upper front teeth to protrude or the lower teeth to tilt inward, resulting in an overbite or open bite. Additionally, thumb sucking can affect the shape of the jaw and the roof of the mouth, leading to issues with speech and proper oral function.

Most of the time, the most effective approach is positive reinforcement, where parents and caregivers praise and reward children for not sucking their thumbs. Encouragement and support can go a long way in helping children overcome this habit.

However, for children who need extra help, we may recommend habit-breaking appliances. These devices are designed to make thumb sucking less enjoyable and help children break the habit more quickly. For instance, a palatal crib is a small appliance placed in the upper part of the mouth that prevents the thumb from comfortably resting against the roof of the mouth.

Addressing thumb sucking early is crucial to prevent more severe orthodontic issues in the future.


Early detection and treatment of orthodontic issues in children are essential for fostering healthy, beautiful smiles. By addressing problems like crowded teeth, overbites, underbites, crossbites, and the effects of thumb sucking, parents can help prevent more severe complications down the road. 

At Pendleton Orthodontics, we understand the unique challenges that come with pediatric orthodontic care and are dedicated to providing personalized, effective treatments tailored to each child’s needs.

If you’re concerned about common issues in your child’s oral health, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with us today. We’re here to answer your questions, provide professional advice, and create a customized treatment plan that sets your child on the path to a lifetime of healthy smiles. 

Let us help you take the first step towards addressing your child’s orthodontic needs and ensuring their bright, beautiful future!