Early orthodontic treatment, also known as “interceptive” or “phase one” treatment, can begin as early as age seven. This is the age when permanent teeth first begin to push their way in and when orthodontic problems first begin to appear. For this reason, the AAO (American Association of Orthodontics) recommends children as young as seven years old be screened to determine their need of orthodontic treatment.
Additionally, some children show signs they may need early orthodontic treatment, including:
- Front teeth are protruding out of the mouth
- Upper teeth overlapping bottom teeth (overbite)
- Lower teeth are in front of top teeth (crossbite)
- Jaw seems oddly formed or positioned
- Child has difficulty chewing food
- Child routinely sucks his/her thumb
- Frequent grinding/clenching of the teeth
- Biting of cheeks or roof of mouth
- Breathing is typically through the mouth
- Premature loss of baby teeth
Early orthodontic treatment will involve the use of partial braces or other orthodontic appliances to help the jaw develop properly and guide permanent teeth into a better position when they finally come in.
Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment
While not every child needs early orthodontic treatment, many do, and there are many benefits to treating orthodontic problems as early as possible, including these:
- Straightening of the four front teeth by means of partial braces. If left to protrude, there is real risk of these teeth getting cracked or broken.
- Correction of crossbite in baby teeth, which improves chewing, speaking, and appearance short-term and helps guide permanent teeth into better positions long-term.
- Correction of teeth crowding. Because the jaw is still growing at this age, it is much easier to nudge the dental arch (with a dental expander) into proper form, which can allow crowded teeth to spread out normally.
- Avoidance of later tooth extractions. If crowding and certain other problems are not corrected early, it could necessitate an extraction years later. Early orthodontic treatment avoids that unpleasant prospect.
- Permanent teeth will come in straighter. Space maintainers can be used in the back of the mouth and partial braces in the front to prevent permanent teeth from coming in crooked.
- Later treatment is rendered less intense. When a child receives early orthodontic treatment, the chances are high that, though later “phase 2” treatment may be needed, it will be shorter and less complicated.
- Bad habits like thumb sucking are discouraged. Thumb sucking, thrusting of the tongue, and other bad habits contribute to early tooth and jaw misalignments. Your child will receive an early education on the importance of avoiding these harmful habits.
- The appearance of your child’s smile will be improved. Even as a young child, it is desirable to have a well formed smile. And even in the meantime, modern braces are much more attractive and comfortable than their predecessors, and colored elastics are also available for kids’ braces to make them more fun.
Finding a Specialist for Your Child
Thus, while baby teeth are only temporary, there are significant benefits to early orthodontic treatment since it prepares the way for permanent teeth to come in better than they otherwise would and reduces the need for later orthodontic treatments. Every child could use an orthodontic screening while still in kindergarten, and those young kids already showing signs of orthodontic problems developing will especially benefit from early orthodontic treatment.
If you live in the Orlando area and have a young child who could use an orthodontic exam, do not hesitate to call Dr. Ajay Kapadia of Kapadia Orthodontics at 407-366-3300 to schedule an appointment or to ask any questions you may have. Kapadia Orthodontics is located in Oviedo, Florida, and also serves Chuluota, Geneva, Winter Springs, and beyond.