Eight Signs Your Child May Require Early Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontist examining Child

If you’re like most parents, you want what’s best for your child. And that includes ensuring they have straight teeth, a healthy bite, and a beautiful smile. Sometimes, this may mean seeking early orthodontic treatment. This can also be known as phase 1 treatment or early interceptive treatment. 

Orthodontists can help correct problems with teeth and jaws while your child is still young, which can save your child a lot of pain and expense in the future. In this article, we will discuss eight signs that may indicate if your child needs or would reap the benefits of early orthodontic treatment!

Sign #1: First permanent (adult) molars have not yet erupted by age 8

Eruption of the teeth is the process when the teeth grow and erupt into the mouth becoming visible. After babies start losing teeth, the first adult teeth to erupt into a child’s mouth are usually the first permanent molars that should erupt around age six and seven. If your child’s first permanent molars are not growing in properly and your child is over age 8, they may need orthodontics to help bring these teeth into the mouth.

Non-erupting first permanent molars are usually due to a lack of space for the teeth to erupt. This can be an early sign that the jaws are too small for the permanent teeth and can result in impacted or ectopic permanent teeth. An impacted tooth is when the tooth does not have space to erupt and ends up being stuck in the jawbone. An ectopic tooth is when a tooth erupts in a very wrong position that is outside of the arch. Both problems are due to lack of space and in cases like this, treatment can work to create space early on and prevent more serious problems from developing later when more adult teeth are trying to come in.  

Early intervention may be required to ensure that your child’s jaws have enough space so that after baby teeth, their permanent teeth can grow in correctly and so that your child has a healthy bite and overall jaw growth.

Sign #2: Your Child Sucks Their Thumb or Pacifier Excessively Which Causes Orthodontic Problems

Sucking is a normal reflex for infants. However, if your child continues to suck their thumb or use a pacifier excessively after the age of 6, it can distort the shape of the upper jaw and dramatically affect the position of the adult teeth. 

Excessive thumb sucking can cause the teeth to become misaligned. Excessive pressure from the thumb, lips, and tongue can result in upper teeth being pushed forward and the lower teeth being pushed back, causing protruding teeth. This can create an overbite, where the upper teeth protrude too far in front over the lower teeth, giving the child a buck tooth appearance. Also, sucking can result in excessive pressure from the cheeks which pushes inwards on the teeth resulting in constriction in the width of the upper jaw causing your child to have a narrow smile.

This can lead to orthodontic problems like a crossbite where the upper jaw is too narrow to fit over the lower jaw. It can also lead to breathing and airway problems such as mouth breathing and/or snoring. If you are worried that your child may be experiencing some of these things, then it is important to visit an orthodontist and see if early care can intercept and prevent these issues from developing and carrying forward into the teen years and beyond.

Sign #3: Your Child Has Pain Chewing or Biting Food

If your child has difficulty chewing or biting food, it may be due to misaligned teeth. Often bite problems like an overbite, underbite, open bite, deep bite, or crossbite can prevent a child’s teeth from coming together comfortably. This can make it difficult to eat properly and may cause your child to avoid certain foods altogether.  

With that in mind, early orthodontic treatment can help to correct this problem and ensure that your child is able to eat all the foods they need for proper nutrition. We can determine whether your child will need interventions and help teeth to come in properly.

Sign #4: Your Child Clenches or Grinds Their Teeth

Clenching and grinding, also known as bruxism, is a condition where a person clenches their teeth together or grinds them back and forth. This can cause damage to the teeth and lead to pain in the jaw.


If your child clenches a little bit while they’re awake, it’s usually nothing to worry about. But if they’re grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw while asleep, this can be very damaging to the teeth and the jaw joint (TMJ) if it persists long-term. Clenching and grinding can be a good sign that your child may need treatment. 

Left untreated, clenching and grinding can lead to a number of problems including headaches, earaches, and even jaw pain. In severe cases, it can also cause tooth damage including wearing down of the enamel and potentially even fracturing the teeth. It’s important to see an orthodontist who can help to correct the underlying issue and prevent future problems.

Sign #5: Your Child Has an Open Bite

If your child cannot get their front teeth to touch when they bite down, this is an orthodontic condition called an open bite. Open bites cause difficulties chewing and speaking. Open bites can also lead to a tongue thrust habit that could make the open bite even worse. Open bites are very unesthetic and can result in children being teased at school. If your child’s open bite is causing them pain or making it difficult for them to eat or speak properly, early examination and treatment can help resolve those issues and is one of the signs of needing orthodontic care.

Child being examined for potential early orthodontic treatment

Sign #6: Your Child Has Speech Difficulties

If your child has difficulty speaking, it may be a sign that they need orthodontic treatment. Early treatment also helps and is key in these cases as it can prevent more serious problems from developing down the road. 

While your child’s speech difficulties may simply be due to an immature mouth or tongue, they could also be caused by an underlying dental issue. In order to articular certain sounds, the tongue has to make contact with the teeth, lips, and palate. There are seven points of articulation and five of them involve the teeth, lips, and palate. These are the bilabial sounds, labiodental sounds, interdental sounds, alveolar sounds, and palatal sounds.  

If the teeth, lips, and jaws are so badly mispositioned that they interfere with the natural movements of the tongue during speaking, a child’s speech may be affected.


If you’re concerned about your child’s speech, we urge you to consult with a Calgary orthodontist who can assess and correct any mispositioned teeth. This treatment also helps to make sure no further issues develop and is the overall goal of early orthodontic treatment.

Sign #7: Your Child Has Crowded Teeth and Can Benefit from Early Treatment

Crowded teeth are one of the most common problems that can benefit from early intervention. If your child has crowded teeth, it may be a sign that they will need a significant amount of orthodontic treatment in the future and your dentist may refer you to visit an orthodontist. 

The benefit of getting on this early is that it can help to prevent more serious problems from developing, and it may also be more effective in correcting orthodontic problems than treatment received later in life. The goal of early treatment is to correct issues such as crowded teeth and to create space in the jaws for the erupting adult teeth so that they do not get stuck in the bone and instead come in as straight as possible.

This is important to help a child with early crowding avoid complex orthodontic treatments like permanent tooth extractions in the future. If you are concerned about your child’s teeth, make sure to talk to their orthodontist about the best treatment for your child. This is a key difference between early examination and action and standard orthodontics, later on, serving to correct any issues before they become more impactful upon a young adult or adult’s life.

Sign #8: Your Child Snores Or Breathes From Their Mouth

Many parents have a moment (or twelve) of uncertainty when they realize their child is snoring. After all, it’s not exactly the most common noise you hear coming from a bedroom at night. But before you start frantically Googling “my child snores, what do I do?!”, take a deep breath and read on. 

In most cases, childhood snoring is an early sign of an upper airway constriction that may not resolve itself as your child grows older. Luckily, there are some great options for orthodontic treatment as a child and interventions that can assist and resolve while your child is still growing. 

Now if your child snores heavily to the point where there is also difficulty breathing at night, it could be a sign of a much more serious problem called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that will be detrimental to their long-term health as they get older. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems like hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. 

Treatment using rapid palatal expanders can help to expand a narrow upper arch which can widen your child’s palate. The palate is the roof of the mouth which is also the base of the nose so any widening of the palate will widen the upper airway, which can help to improve airflow.  

If you’re concerned about your child’s snoring, talk to your doctor or an orthodontist about whether early orthodontic treatment may be right for your child.

Final Thoughts – Can Early Treatment Benefit My Child?

If you notice any of these signs in your child, it’s important to seek orthodontic advice and get all of your questions answered. Early treatment can prevent more serious problems from developing later on and aims to normalize the eruption of the permanent teeth and growth of the jaws while the kids are young. If you’re not sure whether your child needs treatment, the best course of action is to see an orthodontist as early as possible for a consultation who can do a thorough assessment and advise you as to if your child would benefit from early orthodontics.  We have five locations in and around Calgary to serve you.