Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children
Parents are usually unaware of the difference between early interceptive orthodontic treatment and regular orthodontic treatment, they often want to know: Why does their child need early treatment? What are the advantages of early treatment? How is it going to influence their quality of life if they begin orthodontic treatment early?
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) strongly advises parents to take their children to an orthodontist before they are seven years old. Orthodontists can decide at that age whether the child needs early orthodontic treatment, or simply wait and start treatment at a late age. Recommendations from Dr. Robert Gire and Dr. Reza Salmassian will vary from patient to patient and it usually is dependent on the severity of the malocclusion.
Orthodontists generally begin early orthodontic treatment (referred to as Phase 1) between the ages of seven and eight. Phase 2 usually starts at the age of 11 or later. The goal of first phase treatment is to develop the jaw size in order to accommodate all the permanent teeth and to relate the upper and lower jaws to each other. Children sometimes exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. An upper and lower jaw that is growing too much or not enough can be recognized at an early age. If children after age 6 are found to have this jaw discrepancy, they are possible candidates for growth modification with orthodontics.
Because they are growing rapidly, children can benefit enormously from an early phase of orthodontic treatment utilizing appliances that direct the growth relationship of the upper and lower jaws. Thus, a good foundation can be established, providing adequate room for eruption of all permanent teeth. This early correction may prevent later removal of permanent teeth to correct overcrowding and/or surgical procedures to align the upper and lower jaws. Leaving such a condition untreated until all permanent teeth erupt could result in a jaw discrepancy too severe to achieve an ideal result with braces.
Phase I orthodontic treatment is almost always followed by Phase II once the adult teeth are grown in. This second phase will finalize the bite and align all the remaining adult teeth that have come in since the first phase. The goal of the second phase is also to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth.
Signs and Symptoms indicating the need for early treatment:
- Difficulty biting or chewing
- Excessive mouth breathing
- Thumb sucking or other such habits
- Early or late loss of baby teeth (the ideal age for teeth to start exfoliating is around the age of five; and by the age of 14, a child should have all their permanent teeth.)
- Speech problems or disorders
- Protruding teeth (teeth that stick out too far. This can lead to unnecessary trauma)
- Uneven teeth, or teeth that do not grow together in a normal way
- Crossbites in the front or back
- Noticeable crowding in the front teeth around the age of seven or eight
The Cause of Orthodontic Problems and Benefits of Early Treatment
There are a few orthodontic problems which are inherited by children (e.g., jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites), whereas early or late loss of teeth, chronic thumb sucking, or injuries are not inherited but can still lead to many issues.
Early orthodontic treatment saves the patient from complicated processes in the future. After all the permanent teeth erupt, a child’s mouth greatly slows down in growth and the jaw bones harden. Beginning treatment after this growth period may take longer to complete, and in extreme situations involve teeth removal and/or oral surgery. Therefore, treatment at an early age can minimize the chances of necessitating orthodontics or additional extractions and surgery in the future.
It is highly recommended to consult with an orthodontist if your child shows signs of orthodontic issues between the ages of seven and eight. After an initial exam, our team of highly skilled professionals at Ladera Orthodontics will guide you through the best possible treatment for your child’s smile.