Kids grow fast. It seems that one day they look up from their crib to give you a gummy grin, and shortly thereafter, that same toothless child requires evaluation for braces. Didn’t you just walk them to their classroom on the first day of elementary school last week?
Actually, you may just have. Orthodontic work is no longer a rite of pre-teen passage. Interceptive orthodontics (orthodontic treatment in young children) now often begins at a younger age.
In fact, the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that all children receive a screening by age 7. As permanent teeth generally appear around this age, so can evidence of orthodontic problems.
? Why encourage orthodontic treatment for young children?
Around age 6 or 7, the jaw is still growing and adult teeth are starting to come in. Orthodontists use this to their advantage. If we can fix or improve issues in their early stages, future treatment is often simplified, less invasive, less time consuming, or even unnecessary.
? What types of issues can early treatment address?
When scheduling an initial evaluation at Palm Tree Orthodontics, your orthodontist will look at many factors, including your child’s bite, jaw growth, eruption of permanent teeth, and oral habits to conclude whether or not early treatment is necessary.
Early treatment often improves issues so that, when further corrections are required in the future, treatment is less significant. Some problems, however, can cause pain or discomfort immediately and therefore require early intervention.
Here are three things that early treatment can support:
1. Bites & Jaw Growth
Crossbites and underbites can cause the jaw to grow unevenly and produce strain on your child’s growing teeth and jaw muscles. Using an expander at this time will guide the jaw and dental arch to grow properly. In some cases, expanding your child’s upper jaw can even improve breathing ability in his or her nose.
2. Eruption (Growth) of Permanent Teeth
Once the arch is at a correct size, expanders ease overcrowding of permanent teeth as they emerge (erupt) through the gums, therefore reducing the potential future need to extract adult teeth.
Another form of early treatment is a space maintainer. If a baby tooth falls out prematurely, these devices can hold the now vacant space open to await the arrival of the adult tooth, and effectively keep other teeth from filling the open space.
Orthodontists may also discover teeth growing in unusual places (eptopic eruption), and guide these teeth towards their proper location, as they continue to emerge from the gums.
Front teeth that protrude from the front of your child’s mouth are more exposed and can therefore be susceptible to damage or trauma, such as an accident or a hard fall. Correcting this early can protect your child’s smile from reconstructive surgeries due to unavoidable accidents.
3. Oral Habits
Oral habits are often developed by age 7. While some habits, such as flossing and brushing, positively affect your child’s oral hygiene, other habits may have an adverse effect.
One bad habit is thumb or finger sucking that continues into childhood. It can cause a myriad of oral issues, such as protruding front teeth, crossbite, and overcrowding.
Another habit is relying solely on mouth breathing, which causes a greater chance of developing gingivitis (inflamed gums) or halitosis (bad breath). Children who habitually breathe through their mouth often have a greater buildup of dental plaque through inhalation of bacteria. Mouth breathing sometimes has implications on dental and facial growth.
Improper swallowing technique is another harmful habit. Properly closing your lips and pressing your tongue upwards onto your palate to swallow significantly affects both dental alignment and facial development.
By noticing these damaging habits early, orthodontists can suggest behavioral modifications or use appliances to change the habit before they cause permanent damage.
More Benefits to Early Treatment
Most children who require early orthodontic treatment will still need additional work or braces later in life. However, the amount of time in braces may be significantly less if early treatment has occurred.
Additionally, patients who are treated at a young age can often avoid invasive treatment measures, such as tooth extraction and surgery.
Furthermore, children who receive orthodontic treatment earlier in life could be finished by the time appearance begins to affect their teenage self-esteem and confidence.
Booking Your Child’s First Evaluation
If you’ve started noticing adult teeth growing in your child, or if you suspect your child may have harmful oral habits, then it’s time to book your child’s first orthodontic evaluation. Visiting the orthodontist at a young age can save you many visits in later years, and it will let you know if early intervention is required.
The team at Palm Tree Orthodontics is skilled, caring and eager to help. We have extensive experience working with kids, and we will ensure your child feels comfortable during his or her first orthodontic experience.
There is no time like the present to take the first step towards creating a beautiful smile for your child.