Early Treatment

Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children

What is the difference between “early” orthodontic treatment and normal orthodontic treatment?  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 asked about early orthodontic treatment for children. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist for an initial evaluation at age 7.  At this age a trained orthodontic specialist like Dr. Balhoff can evaluate whether your child will need orthodontic treatment and when will be the most appropriate time for the orthodontic treatment to begin.  A proper diagnosis of orthodontic conditions at an early age and regular monitoring of a child’s growth and development can actually help prevent significant, complicated orthodontic and dental problems from developing.  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 early or late loss of baby teeth or prolonged habits, like thumb-sucking.

Early treatment (also known as Interceptive or Phase One) typically begins around age 8 or 9.  Later treatment (known as Comprehensive or Phase Two) will begin around age 13.  Often the goals of early treatment are to help correct the growth of the jaw bones, to correct certain bite problems, such as underbites or crossbites, or to reduce the risk of teeth being injured or damaged.  Early treatment also can help with crowding to make room so that permanent teeth come in properly, lessening the chance of permanent tooth extractions in the future.

Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, and by the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing.  Orthodontic problems that last into adulthood often are more complicated, take more time to correct, and can involve tooth extractions or jaw surgery.  Receiving orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for more complicated orthodontic treatment as an adult that would have been easier to correct as an adolescent or a teen.  So why wait?  Get your child’s initial orthodontic evaluation today!

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

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