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Does your child have a bad bite? 5 signs it’s time to visit your orthodontist

child biting an apple

Your child has a bad bite!

What?! It’s not something any parent wants their dentist or orthodontist to tell them.

When they hear that prognosis, most people feel concern for their child. They wonder:

What does a bad bite mean?

What can I do to help my child with a bad bite?

Which treatments are most effective for a bad bite?

The good news is a ‘bad bite’ is not the end of the world. There are simple practical signs to look for so you’re armed with the information needed to move forward to a confident kid.

The sign’s your child should have an orthodontic assessment

#1 Your child is eight years of age

Some parents may wonder at the idea of an orthodontic assessment for a child at just eight years of age. They may also be surprised to learn the Australian Association of Orthodontists recommends that this is the ideal age for a child to receive their first orthodontic assessment.

Whether your child has a bad bite or not (based on the observations of your dentist), if your eight years of age, it’s a sure sign they should visit an orthodontist to assess their teeth and bite. It’s also the best way to know if treatment for a bad bite is likely to be on the cards.

#2 Crowded teeth and spacing issues

By looking at your child’s mouth it may be immediately obvious they have too much or not enough space. A straightforward observation alone may be enough to identify crowded teeth or spacing issues.

However, an orthodontist will look deeper than the superficial and consider:

  • Are the teeth too large or too small?
  • Have they fully developed?
  • Is one or more teeth missing?

If any one of these concerns isn’t addressed effectively, and in the right time, your child may experience issues with confidence about their appearance, difficulty with cleaning certain teeth, and even speech issues.

An x-ray can help identify any bite or teeth problem. Combined with the practitioner’s experience, you create the best chance of reaching a correct diagnosis. Your orthodontist can then make a recommendation around an ideal treatment plan for your child.

#3 ‘Rabbit’ or ‘Buck’ Teeth

We’re all familiar with the term ‘buck’ teeth, made famous by characters like Bugs Bunny. Occurring at varying degrees of severity, this term refers to when the front teeth protrude out from the mouth. It is most noticeable when observed from the side (profile angle) of the face.

Buck teeth or malocclusion can be associated with an overjet, however, this is not always the case. In some instances, an overjet is when the upper jaw sits too far forward, relative to the lower jaw. It can also make the teeth prone to accidental damage, such as being knocked in a football tackle or damaged by a fall.

If your child has an overjet, it is never too soon to visit your orthodontist and identify the ideal treatment pathway.

#4 Missing Teeth

As a child grows, we assume all their teeth will come through, but that’s not always the case. Missing teeth leave unattractive gaps and prevents other teeth from proper guidance when they do erupt.

Signs that missing teeth might be an issue for your young child include early loss of baby teeth before the age of five and late loss of baby teeth after the age of six. It’s not necessary to be a specialist orthodontist, however, it does pay to have some awareness around the timeframes at which you can expect teeth to erupt and fall out. This can act as a preventive measure and reduce the requirement for reactive treatment when your child is older.

Permanent teeth (in order of eruption)Approximate timeline
First molarsBetween six and seven years
Lateral incisorsBetween seven and eight years
Canine teethBetween nine and 13 years
PremolarsBetween nine and 13 years
Second molarsBetween 11 and 13 years
Third molars (wisdom teeth)Between 17 and 21 years, if at all*

*Information sourced from

#5 Impacted Teeth (also ectopic in some cases)

Impacted teeth occur when there is insufficient space in the mouth for teeth to grow. It affects the way the teeth develop and can lead to tooth development in an unusual direction. Often these teeth will push through the gum into the mouth. One good example of where this occurs is with wisdom teeth, although impacted canines are more common in children.

If identified early, at an initial assessment when the child is eight, the issue can be treated at the ideal time, i.e. between the ages of ten to 14 years. Ideally, treatment is implemented early – while children are young – although, this isn’t always necessary. Regardless of whether it’s a bad bite or not, in our experience, a parent will enjoy the greatest certainty about their investment if they consult a specialist orthodontist regarding the pathway forward. This can be done cost effectively at an initial consult, saving time, money, and potentially preventing a lifetime of discomfort and lack of confidence.

MP Orthodontics, Cheltenham, Melbourne

MP Orthodontics is an orthodontic practice based in Cheltenham, Melbourne. Working from the belief that orthodontic treatment is much more than working with teeth and creating smiles, treating orthodontists – Dr Martin Poon and Dr Geoff Hall – approach patients as people first. Their approach is to work together and plan and implement treatment that meets each individual’s needs. Drawing on 30 plus years experience of helping children gain confidence through tailored treatment, MP Orthodontics, is a truly unique orthodontic practice.

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Book a consultation with MP Orthodontics to begin your orthodontic journey.

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