Your Guide to Early Orthodontic Treatment

For the past decade or so, an increasing number of adults have been getting braces, accounting for about 27% of orthodontic procedures. Most of us know that it’s never too late to get braces, but did you know that some of us may not be starting as early as we could, either?

In the past, orthodontists typically waited until all or most of a child’s permanent teeth erupted. Now, we know that early orthodontic treatment can start as young as six or seven.

By age six and seven, many children are starting to see some of their permanent teeth come in. By comparing these teeth to the alignment of the baby teeth, orthodontists can map the trajectory of a child’s oral development.

Do all kids need early orthodontic treatment? What are the benefits of early orthodontics? Read on to find out!

Does your child need early orthodontic treatment?

As we all know, plenty of people will get through their adolescence and adult years braces-free! (No, this is not because their teeth are “better looking.” It’s because they’re well-aligned, meaning they aren’t causing any pain or long-term damage to the mouth or jaw.)

While we do recommend all children receive an orthodontic evaluation by the age of seven, there are some tell-tale signs that your child may be a good fit for early orthodontic treatment:

  • Crooked, crowded, or misplaced teeth
  • Extra or missing teeth
  • Protruding teeth or spaces between teeth
  • Overbites, underbites, or crossbites; a crossbite occurs when the teeth lean inward, overlap awkwardly, or grind together along the front of the tooth
  • Difficulty chewing, biting, or breathing through the nose
  • Disproportional jaws and teeth to the rest of the face

Note that these symptoms do not apply to erupted adult teeth alone. When the baby teeth grow in incorrectly, they create a sort of pathway for the adult teeth to follow suit!

Again, we do recommend that all children receive an orthodontic evaluation by the time they’re seven years old. The above symptoms are signs that your child will need Phase I braces or other orthodontic treatments!

Benefits of Early Orthodontics

Let’s say your child exhibits any of the symptoms we’ve listed above. You’re probably wondering how early orthodontics will correct these symptoms and help your child’s oral development in the future. Read on to find out more about the benefits of early orthodontics.

Building Space for Adult Teeth

Because your child’s adult teeth won’t all grow in at the same time, crooked or crowded baby teeth will affect the way adult teeth come in. Imagine your child loses one tooth between two intact baby teeth that are both crowding the gap. This leaves minimal room for the adult tooth to erupt, forcing it to grow at an angle.

By properly spacing out the baby teeth, we can create the right amount of room for adult teeth to emerge!

Easing Jaw Pain and Dysfunction

Misalignment is not just an aesthetic issue. When your teeth or jaws aren’t properly aligned, you may experience increased pain over time. With each bite, the jawbones may grind against one another in a very uncomfortable way.

Most of the time, this pain is caused by underbites, overbites, or crossbites. In severe cases, waiting for the adult teeth to erupt before working toward proper alignment may not be enough. The jaw pain and dysfunction experienced in the developmental years may carry over into the adult years.

Guiding Jaw Growth and Palatal Expansion

As a child’s mouth develops, the jaw remains soft and malleable. Over time, it becomes hardened, making jaw adjustment more difficult and costly. Enabling proper jaw growth ensures that teeth will grow in with better alignment.

In addition to jaw growth, early orthodontic treatment enables palatal expansion. The palate is the roof of the mouth, and when it is too narrow, the upper teeth do not have the proper room to erupt. They may erupt at an angle to accommodate their lack of space, or they may not erupt at all!

Resolving Speech Obstruction

Severe overbites are often the culprit behind common speech obstructions. For example, if the upper teeth jut out too far past the bottom teeth, the tongue does not have a good resting place when we make “sss” sounds. As a result, the “sss” sound might be replaced by a whistling noise or a “th” sound.

By correcting an overbite during adolescence, we can stop your child’s speech obstruction in its tracks. This can boost your child’s confidence and save them the effort of speech therapy later in life.

Reducing Time for Phase II Braces

Phase I braces are braces installed before all of the adult teeth erupt. They may only include a few brackets on a select set of teeth, usually covering the front top and bottom teeth. Phase II braces are the braces we’re more used to seeing. They typically cover all teeth and are worn most often by teens and adults.

Phase I braces may be in place for anywhere from a few months to a year. Patients who skip Phase I braces often need Phase II braces for one to three years. Those who wore Phase I braces may only need Phase II braces for a year or less!

Talk to your dentist about early orthodontic treatment.

If your child is younger than seven, it may be time to discuss early orthodontic treatment. Your dentist can tell you more about the possible treatment options, ranging from palate expanders to Phase I braces, and more!

If you live in the Hoover, Alabama, area and need a pediatric dentist or orthodontist, Brocks Gap Dental Group is here to help! Request an appointment today!