Early Orthodontic Treatment

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 Dr. Anderson can evaluate whether your child will benefit from early interceptive treatment. While most children will not need early treatment, a consultation at age 7 is beneficial to monitor growth and development and to catch any problems that might arise early on, helping to prevent bigger problems in the future. Identifying and correcting certain orthodontic problems early can prevent permanent damage to the teeth and jaw joints avoiding future costly dental and surgical procedures.

Early treatment (also known as Phase One or Interceptive Orthodontics) typically begins around age eight or nine. The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems that may cause permanent damage to the teeth or require surgical correction if not addressed early on. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of extractions in the future.

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)
  • Upper teeth that bite inside of lower teeth (crossbites)
  • 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

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. In many cases, correcting these problems early on can prevent permanent damage to the teeth and jaw joints, avoiding future costly dental and surgical procedures.

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 permanent damage to the teeth and jaw joints, or the need for orthodontics as an adult, and lessens the possible future need for extractions or surgery.

If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and 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 an a complimentary consultation. 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.