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Maternal and Child Health Bureau logoA Health Professionals Guide to Pediatric Oral Health Management
HomeModuleModule 1: An Introduction to Infants' and Young Children's Oral HealthModule 2: Managing Infants' and Young Children's Oral HealthModule 3: Oral Conditions and AbnormalitiesModule 4: Prevention of Oral DiseaseModule 5: Non-Nutritive Sucking HabitsModule 6: Oral InjuryModule 7: Infants and Young Children with Special Health Care NeedsContentsGlossaryEvaluationHelp
Module 2: Managing Infants' and Young Children's Oral Health
Module Contents
Overview
2.1 Oral Development

Tooth Eruption and Loss
Teething
Malocclusion (current page)
2.2 Interview and
Risk Assessment


During & After Pregnancy
During Infancy
During Early Childhood
2.3 Oral Screening
2.4 Behavior Management
2.5 Oral Examination
2.6 Anticipatory Guidance

For Pregnant Women,
New Mothers, or Other Intimate Caregivers
For Parents of Infants

For Parents of
Young Children

2.7 The Dental Home
Key Points
Post-Test
References
Additional Resources



2.1 Oral Development, continued

Malocclusion

Note
notepad graphicChildren who are having difficulty closing their jaws or chewing should be referred to a dentist for further assessment and possible intervention.

 

As primary teeth erupt, occlusion (“bite” or the way teeth fit together when the jaws are closed) develops. Malocclusion is an improper alignment of the jaws and teeth. Skeletal malocclusions occur when either the upper or the lower jaw is not properly aligned in relation to the skull or when the upper and lower jaws are not properly aligned with each other. In dental malocclusions, the upper and lower teeth are not properly aligned in relation to one another, and crowding of teeth may also occur. Some malocclusions involve both skeletal and dental aspects.

Most malocclusions are genetically determined. Two types of malocclusions can be prevented: those caused by premature loss of primary teeth and those caused by non-nutritive sucking habits that continue after the permanent teeth erupt. (See Module 5.) The premature loss of primary teeth can cause malocclusion by reducing the space available for the permanent teeth to erupt. If teeth are lost prematurely as a result of tooth decay or injury, space can be preserved with a device called a space maintainer. Children who habitually suck fingers, a thumb, or a pacifier should be encouraged to discontinue the habit at around age 4, before the permanent teeth erupt. (See Module 5, section 5.5.)

Many malocclusions have little or no impact on oral or overall health and may not need treatment to improve function. Some malocclusions, however, can be disfiguring or can affect oral functions such as chewing and speaking. Children who are having difficulty closing their jaws or chewing should be referred to a dentist for further assessment and possible intervention.

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logo: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau