It’s never too late to begin orthodontic treatment. But when it comes to your child’s teeth, earlier is better than later. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an initial screening at age 7 to determine if early orthodontic treatment is right for your child. In most cases, if orthodontic work is needed, one of our orthodontists will simply monitor your child’s growth patterns until the best time for treatment is determined.
My Orthodontist can get your child started on the path to oral and dental health from the very first visit. At this early age we can answer any questions you may have and begin evaluating your child’s tooth and jaw development. Each child’s speed and process of development is different, but early orthodontic treatment can be hugely beneficial for their futures.
Prevent Future Problems and Avoid Surgery
Treatment for common orthodontic problems typically begins around ages 9 - 14, when all of the baby teeth have fallen out and many permanent teeth have grown in. When your child comes in for an early evaluation, there are certain conditions that are much easier to treat if caught at an early age.
- Severe Crossbite: When the upper teeth close inside of the lower teeth, a device called a palatal expander can be used to gradually and painlessly widen the upper jaw. This treatment is especially effective when the jaw itself has not been fully developed. If we wait too long, a more complicated treatment, or even oral surgery, may be required to correct the issue.
- Severe Crowding: Some patients’ jaws may be too small to accommodate all of the permanent teeth. If this is the case, either palatal expansion or tooth extraction may be recommended to help the adult teeth emerge properly. Even if braces are required later, addressing severe crowding early will likely shorten orthodontic treatment time and prevent complications.
- Protruding Teeth and Severe Underbite: Protruding teeth, especially in front, can be prone to chipping and fractures and may also lead to problems with self-image. A severe underbite, caused by the lower jaw growing much larger than the upper jaw, can result in serious bite problems. Orthodontic appliances such as braces and headgear can be used to correct these problems at a younger age so surgery can be avoided in the future.
- Correct Bad Habits: Anyone can pick up a bad habit, but certain parafunctional (detrimental to health) habits can negatively influence the development of the teeth, jaws, and mouth. Some of these problems are not easy to recognize, but an early orthodontic screening with an orthodontist can help identify a bad habit and thus lead to preventative treatment for your child.
- Thumb Sucking and Tongue Thrust: Thumb sucking is natural in early childhood and usually disappears between ages 2 - 4. However, if the habit persists, the pressure on the front teeth and upper jaw can cause the teeth to move apart and the jaws to change shape. Tongue thrust (the force from a tongue pushing forward) can also cause teeth to move. Both issues lead to an “open bite,” which may impair your child’s speech.
- Mouth Breathing: Mouth breathing is an abnormal breathing pattern in which the mouth always remains open and passes air directly to the lungs. The issue is related to the muscular function of the tongue and face, and it may trigger the upper and lower jaw to grow abnormally and lead to serious orthodontic problems. Mouth breathing may begin as a physical condition, but it can become a chronic habit that causes bad breath and gum disease.
Get Started with An Orthodontist
To see if early orthodontic treatment is right for your child, contact us today at our Lawrenceville, Cherry Hill, East Orange, Deptford, West New York, Paterson, Medford, Bayonne, NJ, or Langhorne, PA office. Together we can help your child achieve a lifetime of oral and dental health!