Early Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment is primarily used to prevent and correct irregularities in the bite and alignment of teeth. These irregularities can be influenced by various factors, including genetics, early loss of primary (baby) teeth, and damaging oral habits like thumb sucking or developmental issues.

Orthodontic problems can be present at birth or develop during toddlerhood or early childhood. Crooked teeth can impact self-esteem and make oral care challenging, while properly aligned teeth help reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease in children.

During regular dental check-ups, pediatric dentists utilize diagnostic tools to monitor orthodontic issues and, if needed, initiate early intervention strategies. It is recommended that children have their first orthodontic evaluation before the age of eight to identify any potential concerns and determine the appropriate timing for orthodontic treatment.

Why does early orthodontic treatment make sense?

Some children exhibit early signs of minor orthodontic irregularities. In such cases, the pediatric dentist may choose to monitor the situation without immediate intervention. However, for children with severe orthodontic issues, early orthodontic treatment offers numerous benefits, including:

  1. Enhanced self-confidence and improved aesthetic appearance.
  2. Promotes proper jaw growth.
  3. Increases the likelihood of well-aligned and properly spaced adult teeth.
  4. Reduces the risk of teeth grinding (bruxism).
  5. Lowers the risk of childhood cavities, periodontal disease, and tooth decay.
  6. Decreases the likelihood of impacted adult teeth.
  7. Reduces the need for prolonged orthodontic treatment in later years.
  8. Minimizes the risk of speech problems.
  9. Lowers the risk of tooth, gum, and jawbone injuries.

When can my child begin early orthodontic treatment?

Pediatric dentists recognize three age-related stages of orthodontic treatment.  These stages are described in detail below.

Stage 1: Early treatment (2-6 years old)

Early orthodontic treatment aims to guide and regulate the width of both dental arches.  The main goal of early treatment is to provide enough space for the permanent teeth to erupt correctly.  Good candidates for early treatment include: children who have difficulty biting properly, children who lose baby teeth early, children whose jaws click or grind during movement, bruxers, and children who use the mouth (as opposed to the nose AND mouth) to breathe.

During the early treatment phase, your pediatric dentist works with parents and children to eliminate orthodontically harmful habits, like excessive pacifier use and thumb sucking.  The dentist may also provide one of a variety of dental appliances to promote jaw growth, hold space for adult teeth (space maintainers), or to prevent the teeth from “shifting” into undesired areas.

Stage 2: Middle dentition (6-12 years old)

The goals of middle dentition treatments are to realign wayward jaws, to start to correct crossbites, and to begin the process of gently straightening misaligned permanent teeth.  Middle dentition marks a developmental period when the soft and hard tissues are extremely pliable.  In some ways therefore, it marks an optimal time to begin to correct a severe malocclusion.

Again, the dentist may provide the child with a dental appliance.  Some appliances (like braces) are fixed and others are removable.  Regardless of the appliance, the child will still be able to speak, eat, and chew in a normal fashion.  However, children who are fitted with fixed dental appliances should take extra care to clean the entire oral region each day in order to reduce the risk of staining, decay, and later cosmetic damage.

Stage 3: Adolescent dentition (13+ years old)

Adolescent dentition is what springs to most parents’ minds when they think of orthodontic treatment.  Some of the main goals of adolescent dentition include straightening the permanent teeth and improving the aesthetic appearance of the smile.

Most commonly during this period, the dentist will provide fixed or removable “braces” to gradually straighten the teeth.  Upon completion of the orthodontic treatment, the adolescent may be required to wear a retainer in order to prevent the regression of the teeth to their original alignment.

If you have questions or concerns about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office.

Contact Us.We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form.

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We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form below.