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. While there is no exact age for children to begin orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven. By this age, most children will have a mix of baby and adult teeth, which makes it easier for Dr. Schabel or Dr. Chan to diagnose and correct certain tooth and jaw problems sooner without tooth extractions or surgery.
Early treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins around age 8 or 9. Phase Two will begin around age 11 or older.
Early treatment allows Dr. Schabel or Dr. Chan to:
- Correct unfavorable growth of your child's jaw and certain bite problems, such as underbite or open bite
- Allow permanent teeth to come into the correct position
- Regulate the width of the upper and lower arches
- Create more space for crowded teeth that may not emerge on their own
- Avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions in the future
- Correct thumbsucking or other habits and help improve minor speech problems
How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment
- Crowded front teeth at around age 7 or 8
- Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age 5, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting food
- Mouth breathing
- Your child continues sucking his or her thumb after age 4
- 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 at all
- Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
- Misplaced or blocked out teeth
- Jaws and teeth that are not proportionate to the rest of the face
What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early prevention 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.
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 the need for orthodontics as an adult, and leave little to no chance of extraction or surgery in the future.
If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, or you have been directed by your family dentist to visit the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule an appointment. 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.