Recognizing and Treating a Child’s Misaligned Jaw

We meet with many concerned parents in our Cary office who have noticed their children rubbing their jaws or complaining about pain or discomfort when eating, talking or yawning. Jaw pain is fairly common in children and adults alike, but, while there are several possible causes, children often experience jaw pain due to a misaligned bite. The good news is that an experienced orthodontist can help you recognize and treat your child’s misaligned jaw! 

The Foley Orthodontics team treats many children’s misaligned jaws, also known as malocclusions. To help catch malocclusions and other problems early on, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child have an orthodontic evaluation by the time they’re about seven years old. By this age, an experienced orthodontist can ensure that their teeth, jaw, and bite are developing properly.

Whether your child has been exhibiting symptoms of jaw pain or it’s simply time to schedule their first orthodontic visit, we’d love to meet you both. During this examination, Dr. Foley will check for several common conditions. Many parents find it helpful to understand what these issues are and how they can be corrected, so keep reading below to learn more! 

Crowded teeth

Good dental hygiene is essential for maintaining oral health, but crowded teeth can make brushing and flossing difficult. For this reason, children with crooked teeth are sometimes more likely to develop tooth decay, cavities, and other dental problems. 

Orthodontic treatment can help solve this by moving and aligning their teeth to create healthy space in their smile!

Gapped teeth

Gaps between teeth are very common in childhood and can occur for a variety of reasons, like genetics, thumb sucking, and extended use of a bottle or pacifier. 

If your child has a bit too much space between their teeth, our expert team will be able to identify any underlying causes and address them to create an aesthetic smile for your child.

Open bite

With an open bite, the upper and lower rows of the front teeth don’t touch or close when 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.

Open bites can cause many other orthodontic and health problems down the line, so it’s important to address them as soon as possible. That being said, early treatment can prevent oral surgery from being necessary—usually, open bites can be corrected with regular orthodontic intervention, such as braces or clear aligners.

Missing teeth

Some children have a noticeable gap in their smile because of congenitally missing teeth that never grew. Others may have lost permanent teeth due to injury or disease. 

Cases involving missing teeth benefit from orthodontic appliances like braces, which move the existing teeth into the proper positions. A dentist can then place a bonded bridge or implant to fill the gap formed from the missing tooth.


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, which can be uncomfortable or even painful.


Commonly known as “buck teeth,” overjets occur when the top front teeth protrude far beyond the bottom front teeth. It’s most effectively treated when diagnosed early, as we can use your child’s growth to our advantage and guide the eruption of the teeth.

Deep overbite

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. Out of all the bite disorders, a deep overbite is the most detrimental to the teeth and health of the jaw joints, and can even have an impact on the shape and appearance of a child’s face.

Recognizing and Treating a Child’s Misaligned Jaw

Treating a child’s misaligned jaw

Because every child’s bite is different, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating their smile! Dr. Foley personalizes treatment plans to fit every child’s needs, so you can be sure your child is getting the best outcome possible. This plan may include one or more orthodontic appliances, something we’ll discuss with you in detail during your child’s consultation. Let’s look at the modern and comfortable treatment options our Cary practice offers! 

Metal braces

Metal braces are one of the most recognizable symbols of orthodontics across North Carolina, and also the most common type of treatment. The brackets are made of a mix of stainless steel and other high-quality metals, making them very durable and long-lasting. Modern metal braces are also much more comfortable and lighter than they used to be! They deliver excellent results and can be especially useful when treating cases that are more severe or complicated.

Clear braces

Also known as ceramic braces, clear braces work in the same way metal braces do but have the added benefit of semi-translucent brackets. While clear braces are about the same size and shape as metal braces, they’re able to better blend in with a patient’s natural smile for a more subtle straightening option. 

This is especially true when they’re paired with clear, white, or tooth-colored wires and elastic ties! While ceramic braces are strong, metal braces can tolerate more pressure and may be a better option for younger patients.

Clear aligners

Instead of brackets and wires, clear aligners use a series of see-through removable aligners to move teeth into the desired positions over time. This is accomplished by wearing them 20-22 hours per day and replacing them every 1-2 weeks for the next aligner in the system. 

Clear aligners offer patients a bit more freedom and flexibility than other treatment options do, thanks to the removability of the aligners! This means no food restrictions and an easier time brushing and flossing. 

What are the benefits of orthodontic treatment?

The main benefit of correcting your child’s misaligned bite is to prevent and eliminate jaw pain. However, orthodontic treatment can be beneficial in many other ways, including:

  • a reduced risk of tooth decay and cavities
  • improved speech
  • a reduced risk of chipped or lost teeth
  • improved oral function 
  • increased self-confidence
  • an easier time eating, sleeping, and breathing

Your child will reap the benefits of orthodontic treatment for years to come! Correcting their bite will have a positive impact on their life by improving their overall oral health and boosting their self-esteem.

Recognizing and Treating a Child’s Misaligned Jaw

Give your child a lifetime of smiles with Foley Orthodontics

With our Cary office, it’s never been easier to help your child find a lifetime of happy and healthy smiles. Experienced orthodontist Dr. John Foley has extensive training and expertise in diagnosing and treating alignment issues for patients of all ages, and he can help give your child the best chance at a comfortable and beautiful smile!

If you’d like to learn more about how Dr. Foley can identify and treat jaw pain in children, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation