The American Association of Orthodontists and the Australian society of Orthodontists recommends a child see an orthodontist for an evaluation by the age of seven or eight. That’s because at this time, a child will have his or her first permanent molars, which establish the back bite. We can then look at the side-to-side and front-to-back tooth relationships to see how things are shaping up. While early orthodontic treatment has become more prevalent in recent years, that doesn’t mean your child will leave their first appointment in braces. In fact, at MP orthodontics we can treat extremely conservatively with minimal treatment on young patients. Most of the time, we can get outstanding results without two-phase orthodontic treatment. That being said, there are times when stepping in early can prevent the need for more extensive treatment or surgical correction later in life.
Early orthodontic treatment, sometimes called two-phase orthodontic treatment or interceptive orthodontic treatment, is when a child starts treatment while they still have some primary teeth and are still growing and developing. As specialists in dentofacial orthopaedics, we are able to use certain orthodontic appliances during a child’s younger years to guide their facial growth and the width of their upper and lower dental arches. We can also make room for the permanent teeth to come in correctly. When interceptive orthodontic treatment is indicated, it doesn’t necessarily always mean a full set of braces for kids. Sometimes, phase 1 orthodontic treatment involves orthodontic appliances, such as a palatal expander, that is worn until we achieve the movement or growth we want. Then, the child takes a break for a while until all the permanent teeth come in before finally using braces or Invisalign Teen in phase 2 treatment when they are teenagers.
It should be noted that early orthodontic treatment is not possible for every child as there are many factors to be considered. If you think your child may need early orthodontic treatment, you should get them examined by an orthodontist and discuss their suitability.
How important is early orthodontic treatment?
Parents everywhere have now realised the importance of proper dental health and how it can directly affect your overall health and well-being. This is especially true for children as their bodies and bones are still developing.
Beginning treatment early enough can help develop the underlying bones (which support the teeth) providing the permanent teeth with adequate space to grow correctly. Additionally, the treatment can assist with correcting jaw deficiencies.
Early orthodontic treatment can be extremely beneficial to your child. Some of the many benefits include:
Helping keep teeth clean and healthy
Crooked and crowded teeth can make effective cleaning difficult. There are many spaces and areas which become hard to reach allowing plaque and bacteria to accumulate and thrive. This often leads to tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental issues. By straightening your child’s teeth early on, you can ensure that their teeth cleaning is made easier and help them avoid any needless dental problems both now and in the future.
Preventing premature loss of teeth
If a child’s baby teeth fall out too early, the surrounding teeth can begin shifting which increases the risk of their permanent teeth erupting in a crooked and awkward position. The use of special orthodontic appliances can help begin the tooth straightening process, so that once their permanent teeth start coming in, it can do so in the correct positions. It should be noted that even if baby teeth fall out whilst using an orthodontic appliance, the appliance will keep the surrounding teeth firmly in place, allowing the permanent teeth to erupt correctly and with ease.
Correcting bite problems
When your child’s jaws (or teeth and jaws) do not align properly, it is known as malocclusion or a bad bite and it can cause teeth to grow awkwardly and become crowded. Additionally, it can cause headaches, facial and jaw pain, and discomfort which will leave your child feeling grumpy. In some severe cases, the upper teeth have little room to grow properly, in which cases a palatal expander is used to gently and painlessly widen the upper jaw. Early orthodontic treatment can go a long way in treating bad bites and giving your child’s mouth and teeth the opportunity to develop properly. It is important to remember that bite problems are much easier and quicker to treat at an early age since the bones are still developing and can be manipulated more easily.
Helping prevent dental trauma
If teeth are left untreated, it can cause problems later on which could require major treatment or dental procedures to correct which could be traumatic for your little one. Crooked teeth can also grow in awkward positions and stick out making them more susceptible to physical damage. Straightening them early on can help prevent this, especially since children are prone to falling and having accidents which can chip or break teeth.
Saving time and money
If dental problems are left untreated, they grow worse over time, leaving your teeth looking unsightly and you in pain. Correcting your child’s orthodontic problems early on can give them better dental health but will also save you time and money in the long run. The more difficult a dental problem is to solve, the longer it will take, and the more money will be required.
Helping reduce or correct speech problems
A bad bite or misaligned teeth can cause a lisp or other speech impediments. Correcting these issues during the early years can help prevent or alleviate these problems and give your child the confidence to speak and interact with others.
The Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment
I always weigh the early orthodontic treatment pros and cons and if it’s clear that the pros heavily outnumber the cons, then early treatment could be recommended. When interceptive orthodontic treatment is the best course of action, the benefits are significant. Other significant benefits can include:
- Making space to alleviate severe crowding
- Directing jaw growth and creating facial symmetry
- Reducing the risk of injury by shifting protruding teeth into their correct places
- Making sufficient room for the permanent teeth to erupt
- Reducing the need for permanent tooth extractions
- Decreasing the duration of orthodontic treatment in the teenage years or adulthood
- Boosting self-esteem and confidence
- Minimizing the likelihood that surgery will be necessary down the road
- Stopping habits like thumb sucking and tongue thrusting before they cause damage
- Improving the child’s airways
- Reducing the potential of sleep apnoea in children
- Providing a broader archform and helping provide a more beautiful smile in adulthood
It may seem drastic to have your child undergo early orthodontic treatment, but it will play a crucial role in their dental and overall development. Every child may not need it, but for those who do, early treatment will really help improve the function of their mouth, enhance their smile, and give them the confidence to take on daily challenges with a bright and happy smile.