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 7. At this point the orthodontist will evaluate whether your child will need orthodontic treatment.
Why would you do two phases of treatment or want to treat my child earlier?
Early treatment (also known as Phase 1) typlically begins around age 7 or 8 years old. The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, to help make room for permanent teeth to come in properly. This will help prevent the chances of extractions or surgery in the future. Most children do NOT require a Phase 1 treatment. Once Phase 1 is complete, they will receive a retainer to help keep the teeth and jaw in this postition while the permanent teeth erupt. Phase 2 begins after all the permanent teeth have erupted and sometimes a Phase 2 is not even required, based on how the permanent teeth erupt. Phase 2 is straightening all of the permanent teeth, correcting midlines, perfecting the bite and doing all of the finishing touches to give our patients a Hollywood Smile. We use the pubertal stage of development (early teen years) to work with the natual growth pattern that can not be utilized once growing has stopped. This is why adult cases can be so much harder to treat to perfection.
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. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for more complicated or invasive orthodontic procedures when they are older.
If your child is between the ages of 7-8 or 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 a complimentary 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.