There was a time when most parents didn’t begin to think about the need for orthodontic treatment for their children until the teenage years. In the past, the trend for orthodontic treatment was to wait until most or all of a child’s permanent teeth had come in. However, most orthodontic problems are much easier to correct sooner rather than later. This is why professionals recommend and insist upon early orthodontic treatment. Now, parents, dentists and orthodontists alike look toward treating children that haven’t quite hit their teen years.
Certain orthodontic conditions can be treated as early as 7 or 8 years old. Although they may not be able to be totally corrected at that time, early orthodontic treatment will guide the growth and development of your children’s jaws and teeth so they will not require orthodontic treatment later in life. In fact, early orthodontic treatment can drastically reduce the amount of treatment that a child needs to undergo in his/her lifetime. Early treatment and intervention is the key to most orthodontic problems, including the possible complications that may arise later in life. Early intervention is preventive care. You need no explanation why preventive care is a better approach. Most orthodontic problems are much easier to correct sooner rather than later. There are several conditions that can benefit from early orthodontic treatments.
Children usually lose their baby teeth in the same order the teeth came in. If a patient does not lose baby teeth within what is considered the normal time frame and order, there are several issues that can require orthodontic intervention. Crowding of teeth may occur if the baby teeth are lost too soon. If baby teeth fall out too late, the permanent teeth may come in crowded and also be crooked. If a permanent tooth comes in before a baby tooth is lost, it can create crowding. Although crowding isn’t an emergency, it is something that can affect the smile or bite of a child. If a child loses a tooth due to trauma or decay, early orthodontic treatment can include using a spacer to make sure that the permanent tooth comes in correctly.
- You can check for crowding of teeth at home. Simply look at your child’s upper and lower front teeth.
- If there is crowding in the upper and lower front adult teeth, it will only exacerbate as more teeth try to come in.
While there are overbites that are hereditary, others are caused by malformed jaws. An overbite is a malocclusion and it occurs when the upper jaw is longer than the lower jaw. This is because of an underdeveloped lower jaw, or an overdeveloped upper jaw. Factors like thumb-sucking, tongue thrusts and prolonged bottle-feeding can result in overbites. Other habits like biting nails and chewing eraser-heads are also know to contribute to overbites.
While not all patients with overbites have problems, some with severe cases might suffer from jaw pain, poor dental and oral health, sleep apnea and other breathing difficulties, speech issues and low self-esteem.
- Overbites can be corrected completely with braces.
- Not treating an overbite early on can require surgical correction.
An underbite is a malocclusion in which the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth. This typically occurs when the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw. The severity of an underbite can range from mild (where the two rows of teeth almost meet) to severe (where the teeth do not meet at all). The main cause of an underbite is a misalignment of the lower jaw. Some patients are born with it; others inherit it; while yet others may develop an underbite because of poor dental care and bad habits.
Underbites don’t always cause problems. However, even if your child doesn’t suffer from a speech impediment or sinus problems, they may be subject to teasing from other children. Early orthodontic treatment involves taking x-rays and a mold to determine the cause of the misplaced bite. Then, treatment is customized for each child.
Children with underbites typically have trouble eating and speaking. Some might also suffer from chronic jaw pain, headaches and ear aches, tooth decay, halitosis, sleep apnea and other breathing difficulties.
- One in 10 Americans is born with an inherited underbite.
- An underbite can be corrected completely with early orthodontic treatment.
A crossbite can be either anterior or posterior. Essentially, it means that when your child bites down, their teeth don’t line up properly. A crossbite can cause dental problems and problems for your child’s self-esteem. It’s possible that an untreated crossbite can cause your child’s face to develop in an asymmetrical fashion. It can also cause gum disease and chronic pain in the jaw, neck and shoulders. A crossbite can be corrected with early orthodontic treatment and can save your child from a life full of chronic pain and low self-esteem.
The upper jaw behaves like a door frame that accepts a door closing into it. A small upper jaw might affect the way the lower jaw is able to close into it. If your child has such a jaw, it might develop into a crossbite. A unilateral crossbite is a problem any orthodontic will prefer to see prior to age 7. It is treated with a simple appliance that corrects the width of the upper jaw while allowing the lower jaw to re-center itself. It, therefore, contributes to more favorable future growth.
Did You Know?
- Crossbites can result in migraines.
- Crossbites can be treated using a wide variety of appliances like expanders, braces and Invisalign.
Prolonged thumb sucking can cause an open bite. An open bite is a term used to describe when the upper and lower teeth are unable to make physical contact with each other. An open bite is known as maxillary impaction. The objective of early orthodontic in such a case will be to correct the space between the front and back teeth when your child bites down.
Sometimes an open bite corrects itself, but many times it can only be corrected with orthodontic care. In severe cases, surgical orthodontics might be the only way to correct the open bite. During surgery, bone from the upper jaw is removed and placed higher in order to help correct the problem. The lower jaw is repositioned as well.
- Poor resting tongue positions can contribute to open bites.
Another serious concern is a big overjet. An overjet is when the upper and lower central incisors overlap. This is another issue that has a better chance of being corrected if treated early. Starting treatment early gives your orthodontist the time needed to help the lower jaw grow forward or push the upper jaw back into a better position.
- Overjets are caused when the jaws and teeth are not aligned properly.
- You can tell if your child has a big overjet by checking to see if they can close their mouth properly.
Stages of Early Orthodontic Treatment
Early orthodontic treatment is usually done in stages. These stages are referred to as Phase I and Phase II. In Phase I, treatment focuses on correcting your child’s bite and teaching your child good oral hygiene. Preventing or lessening a dental issue helps guide the development of the child’s jaw, guides permanent teeth into their proper place, and could also provide a positive boost to your child’s self-esteem. Phase I is all about beginning the corrections that need to occur to help minimize the risk of lifelong dental issues.
Phase II occurs a little bit later into the early orthodontic treatment. This involves the use of braces. The purpose of braces is to help guide your child’s teeth into the proper position and stabilize them. Phase II often doesn’t begin until the child is between 11 and 15 years of age. By this time, their permanent teeth have come in. One of the benefits of waiting until this age for braces is that orthodontists are able to work with the child’s bite and teeth placement during the time they are most likely to grow. This can actually help lessen the amount of time that the child needs to have braces.
- Phase I of orthodontic treatment is more preventive and focuses on instilling in children good dental and oral habits.
- Phase II of orthodontic treatment typically involves braces.
So, just how do you know if your child would benefit from early orthodontic treatment? As a parent, you may see some indications in the way that your child’s smile looks or if they’re complaining of pain in their jaw. Ultimately, the best way to know if your child would benefit from early orthodontic treatment is to take your child to a dental professional. Dentists can take an x-ray and examine your child’s oral health. They can also refer you to an orthodontist who specializes in early treatment. The orthodontist can examine your child and make the determination of whether your child would benefit from early treatment. Not all children need early treatment. This is why it is important to seek out the expert advice of an orthodontist who specializes in treating children.
- In the year 2015, over 1 million Americans had braces.
- Braces have been around for nearly 300 years.