Recognizing And Treating Your Child’s Misaligned Jaw

As parents ourselves, we know it can be both concerning when your child is showing signs of pain and hard to diagnose what the source of their pain is. If you’ve noticed them rubbing their jaw or digging into their meals with less gusto than usual, it’s likely that they’re dealing with jaw pain. Jaw pain is fairly common in both children and adults, and in younger kids it’s often caused by a misaligned bite. The technical term for a misaligned bite is a malocclusion, and the good news is, it can be corrected! Recognizing and treating your child’s misaligned jaw is the first step in their orthodontic journey. The expert team here at Thacker Orthodontics can identify and treat your child’s jaw pain, leaving them with an aligned bite and healthy smile! 

How does a misaligned bite cause jaw pain?

Every time your child eats, they use their extremely strong jaw muscles to chew. In fact, chewing can generate up to several hundred pounds of force per square inch! If a child has a misaligned bite, their powerful jaw muscles won’t be able to bite down evenly, and can create an imbalance or unevenly exert excess force on certain teeth. 

In an attempt to correct for this unevenness, the jaw muscles will often overcompensate which can lead to soreness in the child’s jaw. Severe jaw pain can not only make eating uncomfortable, but it can also interfere with the child’s speech, breathing, and sleeping. The joint where the upper and lower jaw meets is complex, so improper functioning can lead to chronic pain in some children, even when their jaw isn’t moving.  

What causes a misaligned bite? How can it be treated?

There are several reasons your child might develop a malocclusion. Bad bites or crooked teeth are often the result of genetics, but this can also occur with:

  • mouths that are too small for their teeth
  • upper jaw and lower jaws that are different sizes
  • the early loss of baby teeth
  • jaw injuries
  • extended thumb sucking or pacifier use 
  • prolonged use of a bottle 
  • tongue thrusting

While you may not always be able to prevent a misaligned bite, there are steps you can take to correct it! Because every child’s smile is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. When you schedule an evaluation for your child with our Cincinnati or Hillsboro office, Dr. Jim and Dr. MaryEvan will perform an oral examination and assess your child’s teeth and jaw. 

If treatment is required, we’ll create a customized treatment plan based on your child’s specific needs. This may include the use of one or more orthodontic appliances, something we’ll discuss with you in detail during their visit. Some of the most common treatment options include the following. 

Recognizing And Treating Your Child's Misaligned Jaw


Braces tend to be the most common way to correct a malocclusion. With braces treatment, brackets are affixed to the front of the teeth and connected with a flexible wire. The wire is regularly tightened throughout the treatment process, gently moving the teeth and jaw into more optimal positions. We may also use elastic bands to apply pressure that will achieve better alignment. Once treatment is complete, we’ll provide your child with a retainer that will help keep their new smile in place.   

Upper jaw expander

Upper jaw expanders are an orthodontic appliance we can use to correct an underbite. The wire-frame device fits across the upper palate, and a special key is used to widen the expander a very small amount each night. Over time, this will widen the upper jaw and bring the bite into alignment.  

Jaw surgery

In rare instances, jaw surgery may be required to correct a misaligned bite, although this is typically reserved for patients who are struggling to perform everyday functions like eating, sleeping, and speaking. Thankfully, we can usually correct alignment issues in children before they get serious enough to need surgery. 

What are the benefits of correcting a misaligned bite?

Correcting a misaligned bite can relieve jaw pain, but there are other benefits to consider as well! Your child’s teeth will be easier to clean, which reduces the risk of developing tooth decay and cavities. They’ll be less likely to chip their teeth or lose them prematurely, and they’ll be able to speak with more clarity. 

Appropriate treatment will help increase your child’s self-confidence and give them a smile they’ll be proud to share with everyone around them! 

Recognizing And Treating Your Child's Misaligned Jaw

Find your child’s best smile at Thacker Orthodontics

Correcting your child’s misaligned bite is an important investment, and one they will reap the rewards of for years to come. With a variety of effective and affordable treatment options available, it’s never been easier to get your child’s smile off to a great start! Our goal here at Thacker Orthodontics is to improve your child’s oral health, align their bite, and enhance their self-confidence, and our comfortable, efficient treatment options can do all three! To learn more about correcting misalignments and achieving a healthier smile for your child, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with our Cincinnati or Hillsboro office.