A crossbite is a type of malocclusion or “bad bite” in which at least one upper tooth bites on the inside of a lower tooth. They can develop on the sides and/or front of the mouth.
What Causes a Crossbite?
Most have a genetic cause. Therefore, a tendency to develop a crossbite runs in some families. In this case, the child is born with an abnormally narrow upper jaw that can cause the teeth to be crowded and/or misaligned.
Crossbites can also be caused by an abnormal eruption of the teeth. In some cases, for instance, the baby teeth will not fall out when they should, and the adult teeth will come in behind them. Thumb-sucking can make a crossbite worse. If a child continues sucking their thumb past a certain age, they can make their upper palate narrower or otherwise deform the soft bones in it.
If a child has a condition that forces them to breathe through their mouth, they risk developing a crossbite. When a child breathes through their nose, as is normal, their tongue stays on the roof of the mouth and helps the jaws grow laterally. If the child constantly breathes through their mouth, the tongue moves out of the way and the jaws either remain narrow or grow asymmetrically.
Why are Crossbites Bad?
They can cause pain in the teeth and the jaw, and they can make chewing painful. They can cause the teeth to wear down prematurely, and they increase the risk of developing gingivitis and/or periodontitis. Crossbites also increase the risks of tooth loss. In severe cases, they can damage the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and cause the patient to develop arthritis in that joint.
Can They Be Prevented?
It depends on the cause. If the child is breathing through their mouth all the time, the parents need to determine the cause and get it fixed. Thumb-sucking is a perfectly normal habit in babies and small children. Most kids stop sucking their thumb between the ages of two and four. A child who continues sucking their thumb past the age of five risks damaging their permanent teeth. Parents therefore need to find a way to help their child break the habit. If a child’s baby teeth are late in falling out, the parents should arrange to have them extracted to ensure the adult teeth grow in normally.
Crossbites, however, cannot always be prevented. Some children are simply born with abnormally narrow upper jaws.
How are Crossbites Treated?
The treatments for a crossbite vary and will depend on the cause. For example, if a child was born with a narrow upper jaw, they will need to wear an orthodontic device called a palatal expander. It looks a bit like a retainer and consists of a wire framework with a keyhole in the middle. The parent uses the key to make a few turns and gradually widen the child’s upper jaw. Most children have to wear a palatal expander for three to six months. Afterwards, many children will need to wear braces to correct their bite.
Schedule an appointment at Pack Orthodontics in Murfreesboro or Shelbyville to learn more about how your child’s crossbite can be treated. Contact us today to request a consultation at one of our offices.