Orthodontics has the reputation for being a pre-teen or teenage rite of passage. However, there are some cases where earlier treatment can lead to an easier orthodontic treatment later.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all kids see an orthodontist by age seven. By age seven, most children have enough of their permanent teeth that the orthodontist can see how everything is developing. This early screening identifies problems that are inherent in the child’s mouth and could need early treatment. These problems are not always the ones you can see, either. Unlike crooked teeth or a pronounced bite problem that anyone can see, some orthodontic issues are only evident to the trained eye or on panoramic X-rays.
Per the AAO, some conditions that might require an earlier orthodontic intervention include:
- Underbites: the lower front teeth are in front of the upper front teeth
- Crossbites: the upper teeth are inside the lowers
- Functional Shift: if the jaw moves to one side as the teeth come together
- Crowded or over spaced teeth
- Extra or missing teeth
- Teeth that do not meet or come together in an abnormal way
- Teeth that are impacted or coming into the wrong position
- Sucking behaviors that are affecting teeth or jaw growth
Early intervention on these conditions can guide the child’s growth to a healthier place. By treating the bite while your child still has some baby teeth, an orthodontist can provide more space for incoming permanent teeth. Sometimes children need two-phase orthodontics to ensure that the bite comes together well.
There are four general goals of early orthodontic treatment:
- Stop any developing irregularities or abnormalities
- Remove the cause of problems
- Guide the growth of jaw and facial bones
- Make enough space for permanent teeth to come in
The type of early treatment your orthodontist might recommend depends on the case. The goal will dictate the treatment the orthodontist recommends. Some early treatments can include:
- Palatal Expander: Making the upper jaw wider can help reduce crowding in narrow arches. These work best when a patient is still growing and before the maxillary bones fuse. The expander applies force to the two maxillary bones that make up the upper jaw, spreading them apart and widening the jaw. Perhaps more importantly, addressing this problem early prevents the need for surgery later.
- Early Interceptive Treatment: This term describes a short time in braces that prevents a problem that presents early from becoming a bigger deal later. This would be an example of phase 1 of two-phase orthodontics.
- Tooth extraction: Taking out stubborn baby teeth or removing impacted teeth can help a child’s permanent teeth come in closer to where they should be without braces.
There are a few benefits of early orthodontic treatment for children. First, their bones are still soft, so they are easier to move. That means the treatments work faster and are often more effective than they are in later years. Also, underlying issues that you can’t see or detect can be fixed before they get worse. In addition, the early treatments tend to be simpler at this stage.
It is essential to note that all early orthodontic appointments do not result in treatment. The AAO says there are only a few orthodontic issues that need early correction. Usually, even if there is a problem, the chances are high that the orthodontist will wait to see how things develop before initiating treatment. In those cases, your orthodontist will typically recommend you return after you child has grown and developed more.
Many children do not need any early orthodontic treatment at all. However, they all need to visit an orthodontist around age 7 for a screening. The screening gives orthodontists an early look at their oral health and, in some specific cases, provides and opportunity for more modern orthodontic treatment options that are less painful (and less expensive) than they would be later.
To schedule your free consultation today, call Bloom Orthodontics office in Long Beach at 562-421-8883.
Bloom Orthodontics in Long Beach has a long history of improving our patients’ smiles. We provide modern orthodontic treatments delivered with old-fashioned excellence in patient experience. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
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“Early Orthodontic Care May Help You Avoid Costly Treatments.” www3.aaoinfo.org. 12 November 2020. Web. 17 August. 2021. < https://www3.aaoinfo.org/blog/early-orthodontic-care-may-help-you-avoid-costly-treatments/>.
“Benefits of early treatment.” Orthodonticaustralia.org.au. 25 February 2020. <https://orthodonticsaustralia.org.au/benefits-of-early-treatment/>