Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children
What is the difference between early orthodontic treatment and regular orthodontic treatment, and why might my child need early treatment? 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 Canadian Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist around age seven. At this point the orthodontist will evaluate whether your child will need orthodontic treatment.
Early treatment (also known as Phase One Treatment) typically begins around age eight or nine (Phase Two will begin around age 11 or older). The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as underbite, overbite or open bite. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of needing extractions of permanent teeth in the future.
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 four or five
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth
- Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner (open bite) or overlap so much they hit gum tissue or cause excess wear on teeth.
- Shifting of the jaw forwards or sideways when your child closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight years of age
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 underbites / overbites / openbites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.
Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, and by the end of their teen years the jaw bones will slow and eventually stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or corrective jaw surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, resulting in less chance of having to consider extraction of permanent teeth or corrective jaw surgery in the future.
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.