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. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven. At this point the orthodontist will evaluate whether your child will need orthodontic treatment.
Early treatment (also known as Phase One) is required to address skeletal jaw problems, major imbalance or anomalies in jaw growth,cross bite and mouth habits that can affect normal jaw growth. Underbite, severe over bite and crowding are other examples that are indications of interceptive orthodontic treatment.This phase of treatment is required to address bite and jaw growth problems that if untreated will lead to need for extraction of permanent teeth or even jaw surgery.
The goal of early treatment is to establish balanced jaw growth and correct certain bite problems, such as underbite while the patient is growing.Early treatment also helps make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, reducing the chance of need for extractions in the future.
How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment:
Here are some instances of problems that require early interceptive orthodontic treatment regardless of what permanent or baby teeth are present:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth (children should typically start losing their front baby teeth around age 5-6, and should have lost all their baby teeth by age 13).There is significant variations in the normal eruption timing between individuals.Certain types of radiographs along with a clinical exam by the orthodontist will determine any anomalies in the proper timing and eruption of the teeth
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting due to improper eruption or position of the teeth relative to opposing teeth
- Mouth breathing, snoring and airway problems due to jaw size, growth and alignment
- Your child continues sucking a pacifier, his or her finger or thumb after age 3
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth (the top teeth stick out too far forward)
- Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all (open bite)
- Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
- Crowded front teeth at an early age usually indicates severe lack of space for the permanent teeth
What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early treatment benefit my child?
Orthodontic problems such as cross bite, underbite, severe overbite, open bite,deep bite and other jaw growth and bite problems can be inherited or caused by environmental factors such as injury to the face and mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, improper eruption of the teeth or mouth habits such as tongue thrust and thumb-sucking.
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. In case there is severe crowding or jaw growth problems and a second phase of orthodontic treatment is required, it will be a shorter time and the problem would have not been easily corercted if it were not for the early treatment
If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows any of the problems listed above, or if you have been directed by your family dentist to consult the orthodontist, please contact our office to schedule an appointment. Our orthodontist, Dr. Majd can provide your child with a comprehensive initial orthodontic evaluation, discuss any problems and treatment options and make recommendations in regards to the best time and approach to address the problem with orthodontic treatment.
Most young children (before age 10 ) do not require nor are ready for braces but small intervention techniques and measures such as extraction of a baby tooth at the right time, management of harmful oral habits or addressing jaw growth issues with a non-invasive and removable appliance over a short period of time can prevent severe problems that would require extractions of permanent teeth or jaw surgery if not treated early.