Experts recommend that children visit an orthodontist by their seventh birthday. While most patients probably won’t require orthodontic treatment this early, by creating a relationship with an orthodontist, he or she can monitor your child and determine the right time to begin treatment to ensure the best results.
While orthodontic treatment can be performed at any age, we can see better outcomes at earlier ages. This is because the jaw is still growing, so it responds well to tooth movement. Early treatment can prevent the need for tooth extractions and surgeries in the future.
For some patients, treatment should begin before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. This two phase treatment will consist of a treatment phase, followed by a period of observation, and then an additional treatment phase to perfect the bite and functionality.
Orthodontists can see issues when permanent teeth start to come in, and can then use early intervention to correct crooked and misaligned teeth, as well as to preserve or create spaces for the permanent teeth to erupt. Orthodontists can also correct bite problems by guiding jaw growth, and even reduce speech problems caused by jaw issues.
It is important for parents to remember that early intervention treatment does not mean a child will not need additional work in the future. Instead, early treatment can lessen the severity of additional treatment because hopefully any problems have been made less complicated due to the early treatment.
During early orthodontic treatment, an appliance or partial braces will guide the developing jaw bones, creating a better environment for permanent teeth. In many cases, orthodontists can achieve results they otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve if the treatment is left until the jawbone has stopped growing.
By visiting an experienced orthodontist, developmental issues that could turn into future headaches can be detected and addressed before they have a chance to create even bigger issues that are harder to correct. Issues your orthodontist should look for include crowding, premature loss of baby teeth, and cross bites.
If your child is past the age of seven and you have not yet schedule a consultation with an orthodontist, your child could benefit, especially if he or she has any of the following issues:
- Baby teeth fall out too early or too late
- Difficulty in chewing
- Mouth breathing
- Extended thumb sucking, or use of a bottle or pacifier
- Crowded or misplaced teeth
- Grinding teeth
- Biting into the roof of the mouth
- Front teeth that do not meet in a normal way, or do not meet at all.
You may wonder why, if your child is seeing a family dentist twice a year, you should still schedule a consultation with an orthodontist. Quite simply, your dentist may not catch early orthodontic issues because he or she isn’t trained to look for such problems. An orthodontist has specialty training and expertise that can easily identify issues that will turn into problems in the future if not properly treated.
The early phase of your child’s treatment will correct bad habits, allow for proper biting, prevent a problem before it becomes serious, guide the growth of the jaw, guide permanent teeth into proper locations, and/or create a more pleasing appearance.
The second phase of treatment will then move the teeth to their proper locations, which will improve the function of the bite.
Two-phase orthodontic treatment is specialized treatment that combines straightening teeth with correcting physical changes. The goal is to take advantage of the growing jaw bone and erupting permanent teeth to create the most ideal and functional smile.
Some parents may mistakenly believe that orthodontic treatment cannot begin until all baby teeth have fallen out and the permanent teeth have erupted. This just simply isn’t true, and putting off treatment for too long can actually cause more harm than good. To achieve the best and most lasting results, early, two phase orthodontic treatment is the best answer.