WHY ARE CHILDREN STARTING ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT SO EARLY?
You see your child’s elementary school friend wearing braces and you think to yourself, “I thought children got braces in middle or high school”. While most children can wait and start orthodontic treatment in the middle school or high school, early orthodontic treatment may be in a child’s best interest if their problem is one that would become more serious over time if left untreated.
Orthodontists can detect problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while baby teeth are still present. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that your child’s first check-up be performed around age 7, when enough permanent teeth are present to make an accurate prediction of any future orthodontic issues. This complimentary check-up will reveal if your children’s teeth are fine and you can go worry about something else, or if there is an issue that should be addressed. The orthodontist may recommend treatment later and place your child on six-month to one-year intervals to monitor the growth of the jaws and the developing teeth until it is the right time to start. Sometimes early treatment may be recommended to prevent more serious problems from developing or to make treatment at an older age shorter in duration or less involved and complicated, and therefore easier on your child.
If your child has any of these issues they may benefit from early orthodontic intervention:
• Underbites—when a child’s top front teeth are behind the lower front teeth like a bulldog, early treatment can correct any skeletal disharmony and prevent future jaw surgery
• Crossbites—If the jaw shifts to one side while growing, facial asymmetry can progressively get worse and become more difficult to correct. Unstable bites can also as cause joint issues (TMJ)
• Very crowded teeth— expanders or braces can make more room for the permanent teeth, preventing the need to extract permanent teeth
• Excessively spaced teeth—may reveal issues with underlying developing permanent teeth
• Extra or missing teeth—early detection helps create a long-term plan with your dentist on what to do.
• Teeth that meet abnormally, or don’t meet at all creates excessive wear and jaw issues. Early treatment can establish a proper bite and better chewing function.
• Tongue thrusting– can create an open-bite, which is more difficult to correct later.
• Thumb, finger or pacifier sucking habits– can change the shape of developing bones and create severe bite problems.
Early treatment may take the form of braces or an appliance to move the teeth or direct the growth of the jaws. Sometimes no appliances are necessary. Rather, removal of some baby teeth may help the permanent teeth erupt better or prevent permanent teeth from becoming impacted. A child may need a second course of orthodontic treatment after all permanent teeth have come in to move those teeth into their best position.
Not every child needs early intervention by an orthodontist, however, every child should be examined by an orthodontist to ensure that a window of opportunity to treat at an ideal time is not missed!