Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children
What is the difference between early orthodontic treatment and regular orthodontic treatment, and why might my child need early treatment? How will early treatment benefit my child in the long run?
These are just a few of the questions surrounding the topic of early orthodontic treatment for children. Along with the American Association of Orthodontists, we recommend that a child receive their first orthodontic screening by the age 7. By starting treatment early, we are able to recognize potential problems early and correct them before they become more serious. This not only saves you and your child time, but also money.
Early interceptive orthodontic treatment has proven to be beneficial for the overall desired result. Because a young child’s permanent teeth have not finished erupting, we are able to thoroughly evaluate the front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships and address any impending orthopedic problems at its earliest stage.
During your child’s initial evaluation we will first determine if there are any problems that need to be addressed, such as crowding, cross bites, submerged teeth, open bite, or overbite. If Drs. Ahl and O’Connor feel treatment is indicated, they will create a personalized treatment plan for your child that will prove to be the most beneficial for his/her specific case.
Early orthodontic treatment varies between patients, but may include removable or fixed appliances that can provide more room for crowded, erupting teeth; preserve space for unerupted teeth; create facial symmetry through manipulating jaw growth; reduce the possibility of tooth extraction; and reduce overall treatment time in braces once all of the permanent teeth erupt.
Many patients benefit from a second phase of treatment once all of permanent teeth have erupted. The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. When this equilibrium is established, the teeth will function together properly. Phase Two usually involves full upper and lower braces.
How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Your child continues sucking his or her thumb after age five
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
- Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all
- Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early treatment benefit my child?
Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.
Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, and by the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, leaving little to no chance of extraction or surgery in the future.
If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, or if you have been directed by your family dentist to visit the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule an appointment. Our team will provide your child with an initial exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child's smile.
Some examples of early treatment:
- Limited braces to create space for permanent teeth to erupt.
- Hyrax expander to correct a scissor bite or posterior cross-bite.
- Habit breaking appliance can be utilized to correct open bite relationships caused by a thumb, finger or tongue habit.
- A removable retainer with springs can be used to align rotated teeth and prevent nighttime grinding.
To find out if your child would benefit from early interceptive treatment, call today to schedule a complimentary consultation.