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Early Prevention

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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 American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first see an orthodontist as early as age seven. At this point the orthodontist will evaluate whether or not your child will need orthodontic treatment.

Early treatment (also known as Phase I) typically begins around age eight or nine (Phase II 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. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance for extractions 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 their permanent teeth in around age 13)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Your child continues sucking their 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 their mouth (crossbites)
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight

What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early prevention 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 may be inherited; or, they may also result from injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb sucking habits.

Most children have lost all their baby teeth by age 13 and by the end of their teen years the jaw bones will harden and no longer continue to grow. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction and the possibility of oral surgery. As a child, receiving early orthodontic treatment can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult and leaves little to no chance of extraction or 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.

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