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Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children


Is it worth it?
What age should I bring my children in for treatment?

Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children


Is it worth it? What age should I bring my children in for treatment?

Depending on your age, you might remember a time when braces were placed on teeth only after all the primary teeth had come out and the permanent replacements had come in. You might also remember that if there was any crowding, four permanent teeth were frequently removed, usually the bicuspids, so that there was enough room to straighten the remaining teeth. Well, Dorothy, times have certainly changed!

As the oldest of the nine dental specialties, orthodontics has experienced changes in how we manage malocclusions as research and experience by thousands of orthodontists constantly bring new concepts and treatment options to the fore. Prior to 1980, the above paragraph held true. But the idea of dentofacial orthopedics, which can modify growth to our advantage as well as the influence of the European functional appliances began to convince orthodontists worldwide that the earlier we can address skeletal issues, crowding, or habits such as tongue thrusts or mouth breathing, the better the eventual outcome once all the permanent teeth have erupted.

While the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children be seen by an orthodontist at about seven years of age, it is advisable that as a parent, you watch for early warning signs that might suggest you call for an orthodontic evaluation. Some of the signs include the following:

  • Crowding in the front teeth by age seven or eight
  • Thumb or finger sucking after age five
  • Mouth breathing
  • Crossbites or shift of the jaw after the first biting contact
  • Excessive overlapping of the front teeth and cannot see lower teeth when biting (overbite)
  • Upper front teeth way in front of the lower front teeth (overjet)
  • Speech difficulties
  • Any difficulty chewing or biting
  • Tongue thrust when swallowing
  • Teeth do not meet or fit normally
  • Underbite - lower teeth in front of upper teeth
  • Vertical space between the upper and lower front teeth for more than a year

Another thing to remember is that, as a parent, many of these problems may be due to inherited traits that you or your spouse may have dealt with during your youth or adolescence. Anticipating these problems and getting in early will lead to helpful intervention or interception of problems. And while there is no guarantee that early treatment will eliminate the need for braces later, it will, if compliance is good, make any subsequent treatment far easier, faster, less expensive (at least in our office) and will end in a superior result.

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