Good dental health is important at any age, but it’s especially crucial when your child’s baby teeth are replaced with permanent teeth. At this stage, dental problems such as crooked teeth, overcrowding, and bite/jaw alignment issues are quite common. Early orthodontic treatment can help guide the growth of permanent teeth and keep them healthy for life.
What Is Early Orthodontic Treatment and Why Is It Needed?
Early orthodontic treatment for children aims to guide the growth of your child’s jaw, and teeth, as well as correct the bite or alignment problems before the jaw bones harden completely. Also known as Phase-One or interceptive orthodontics, it generally starts at 8-9 years of age, and is followed by Phase-Two after your child is 11 years old.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, your child should be screened for orthodontic problems starting at age seven. Most children start losing baby teeth when they’re 5 years old, and your child should have all their permanent teeth by the time they’re 13 years old. However, crooked teeth and other issues should be treated early.
By late teens, the jaw stops growing, and orthodontic treatment gets more challenging. Waiting for too long could lead to serious dental health problems for your child later. These may require more intensive treatment such as root canal or oral surgery, and even increase the chance of extraction later in life!
Warning Signs That Your Child Needs Orthodontic Treatment
While parents may understand the importance of orthodontic evaluation for kids, they might not be aware of the signs that indicate immediate attention in terms of orthodontic for kids. An early evaluation will help you catch things in the nascent stage and identify potential problems, thus preparing you and your child for treatment in the near future. Here are 5 common warning signs that your child needs orthodontic treatment.
- Child Having an Open Mouth Most of the Time
- Crooked or Crowded Teeth
- Misalignment or Abnormal Growth of Jaw(s)
- Prolonged Habit of Thumb Sucking
- Unusual Bite or Jaw Structure
The tongue should be positioned on the roof of the mouth for the teeth and jaws to grow correctly and for the correct development of the upper jaw and the entire face. Even if the lips are slightly apart at rest or the mouth is open, the tongue won’t rest on the roof, resulting in long, narrow faces, receding chins, flat cheeks, gummy smiles, and small, narrow jaws lacking space for all adult teeth.
Crowding causes the teeth to look uneven, slanted, and twisted. They may even cause the teeth to appear in front of or behind each other in an overlapping fashion. This can make it difficult for them to brush or floss, which builds plaque. This further leads to tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and the loss of bone around teeth.
Your child may require evaluation if there are problems with his/her jaw alignment. If you think their jaw is shifting, causing them to bite their cheek or causing issues with biting, go to an orthodontist immediately. If their jaws and teeth don’t meet properly, there will be issues with chewing. It will affect the overall health and appearance too.
Kids tend to stop thumb sucking between the ages of 2 and 4, but if this habit continues as the permanent teeth start coming, around the age of 6, then the upper teeth will start sticking out, and the lower teeth will start getting crowded. It may even cause speech problems such as lisping.
If there are problems with the way upper and lower teeth come together to form a bite, it is called malocclusion. It is a common dental problem that can easily be corrected with orthodontic treatment. If you ignore it, bite, or jaw misalignment can potentially have lifelong implications. These problems can be easily corrected in a growing child as compared to an adult.
Benefits of Early Orthodontic Prevention
If you’re wondering about the benefits of early orthodontic check-ups, here’s how they can help your child:
- In case your child has alignment or spacing problems, early orthodontic treatment can help guide the growth of jaws in the proper position.
- Orthodontic braces for children can help ensure that upper and lower dental arches don’t get any wider or narrower than they should be.
- Early use of braces can guide your child’s permanent teeth into the right position, reducing or simplifying comprehensive orthodontic treatment later.
- It also helps to prevent tooth impaction in erupting teeth and ensures there’s enough space for missing teeth that have not yet come in.
- Braces may also help reduce or remove speech problems, abnormal swallowing, mouth breathing, and other issues caused by misaligned teeth or jaws.
- Early treatment can reduce or completely eliminate thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and other harmful habits that affect tooth and bite positions.
- By reducing the protrusion of front teeth on the upper jaw, early orthodontic treatment lowers the risk of injury and trauma to your child’s teeth.
- Wearing orthodontic appliances at an early age can prevent or reduce dental problems later, improving your child’s confidence and self-esteem too.
With the right oral care starting at an early age, your child’s teeth and smile will remain healthy all their lives. If you’re planning orthodontic treatment for your child, visit Thurman Orthodontics for an evaluation and screening right away!
Dr. Brian Thurman has spent his entire life enjoying all the beauty that California has to offer. A Fresno native, he still escapes to the ocean or the mountains whenever his busy schedule allows. Driven by his love for natural beauty, Dr. Thurman enjoys creating beautiful smiles and healthy bites that last a lifetime. He is proud to be the only Ivy League trained Orthodontist in the Fresno/Clovis area.