Early Orthodontic Treatment

Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children

What is the difference between early orthodontic treatment and regular orthodontic treatment?  Why might my child need early treatment?  Do I need a referral from my family dentist to see the orthodontist?  How will early treatment benefit my child in the long run?

These are just a few of the questions surrounding the topic of early orthodontic treatment for children. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven.  Not every child needs early orthodontic treatment, but interceptive treatment may help prevent more complicated (and costly) treatments in the future.  Having your child seen for an evaluation at age 7 helps ensure that necessary treatment can begin at the optimum time to get the best possible result.  

Dentists and orthodontists are typically looking at your child's mouth in very different ways.  While your family dentist may be primarily concerned with signs of cavities and overall health of the mouth, we are concerned with facial and jaw growth, spacing for permanent teeth, determining if tongue, speech, breathing or swallowing habits are affecting tooth position and jaw growth and other factors that will contribute to overall dental and facial esthetics for your child's whole life.  We are happy to see your child for an orthodontic evaluation even if your dentist hasn't recommended it yet.

One goal of early treatment is to help guide the growth of the jaw and correct certain bite problems. Early treatment also helps to create space to accomodate all of the permanent teeth, lessening the chance of permanent tooth extractions in the future.

Following Phase One treatment, children will typically have a period of rest and observation until all of the permanent teeth are in.  At that time, full upper and lower braces may be needed to completely align the permanent teeth. 

How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Your child continues sucking his or her thumb after age five
  • Speech impediments
  • Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
  • Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all
  • Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight

What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early treatment benefit my child?

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth or thumb-sucking habits.

If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care or if you have been directed by your family dentist to visit the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule an appointment. Our team will provide your child with an initial exam and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child's smile.

American Board Of Orthodontics 2015 American Association Of Orthodontists