Early Treatment Orthodontics

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?

Early treatment, also known as Phase-One, typically begins around age 6 to 9. 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. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of extractions in the future.

How will early orthodontic 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 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 harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, leaving little to no chance of extraction or surgery in the future.

If your child is between the ages of six and nine and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, 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.

Why should children have an orthodontic screening no later than age 7?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have an initial orthodontic screening by the age of 7, as by this age all of the permanent incisors (front teeth) as well as the permanent first molars should have erupted. If inadequate space exists, some of these teeth could become impacted. An evaluation at this time helps identify problems with eruptions. Also at this time, we can evaluate growth discrepancies of the jaws, crossbites (when upper teeth hit inside the lower teeth), crowding, and the development of injury-prone dental protrusions. An early orthodontic screening enables us to advise you if treatment will even be necessary, and if so, determine the best time for your child to be treated. There is no charge for an initial examination or for supervision reassessment examinations.

What are the benefits of an early evaluation and possible treatment?

Some orthodontic conditions are simply easier to correct if they’re corrected early. And knowing that your child might need corrective dental work, or not need corrective dental work simply offers peace of mind. Early orthodontic treatment is all about preventing more severe problems later on. It provides the opportunity to have control over where the permanent teeth come in by addressing the structure of the jaw and teeth while the primary teeth are still in the mouth. By age seven, your child’s mouth has grown enough and has enough sound structure to know how it will develop as the permanent teeth start to emerge. Dr. Gonzalez is trained to identify bite issues at an early age and will recommend if any treatment is needed at this point or later.

For young patients who have clear indications for early orthodontic intervention, this type of treatment presents an opportunity to:

  • Guide the growth of the jaws to accommodate emerging teeth
  • Regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches
  • Guide erupting permanent teeth to desirable positions
  • Lower the risk of traumatic injury to protruded upper incisors (front teeth)
  • Help eliminate harmful oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking which can cause open bites
  • Reduce or eliminate abnormal swallowing or some speech problems
  • Potentially simplify and/or shorten treatment time for later comprehensive orthodontics
  • Reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth (teeth that should have come in, but have not), and preserve or gain space for permanent teeth that are appearing
  • A better prognosis for how the permanent teeth will develop
  • Correcting bite problems like an open bite, cross bite or deep bite
  • Creating a more pleasing and functional arrangement of teeth, lips and face
  • Alleviating future, and possibly more invasive, dental correction
  • Improve personal appearance and self-esteem and confidence in your child

Bucked Teeth

We understand that some kids may be hesitant to wear braces, and we won't recommend treatment unless it is truly beneficial. This is usually the first stage of orthodontic treatment. In some cases, short-term treatment at this age can prevent future problems, and reduce the time your child will need to wear braces as a teenager.

Sometimes kids do want braces, for cosmetic reasons. We know little ones are embarrassed by crooked smiles just like adults. If you believe your child may benefit socially from orthodontic treatment, come to River Oaks Family Dental & Orthodontics, and see how we can help.

How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment

There are a lot of reasons to have your dentist examine your young child’s mouth when they still have baby teeth. A thorough orthodontic evaluation will reveal just how the teeth and mouth are growing, and will give the opportunity for your orthodontist to provide interceptive treatment. Interceptive treatment basically prevents a problem before it happens.

Some signs or habits that may indicate the need for an early orthodontic examination include early or late loss of baby teeth, difficulty in chewing or biting, mouth breathing, thumb or finger sucking, crowding, displaced or blocked out teeth, biting the cheek or roof of the mouth, teeth that meet abnormally or not at all, jaws or teeth that are out of proportion to one another, and a smile that is not symmetrical.

Types of teeth and bite conditions that may be cause for Early Orthodontic treatment include

  • Open bites
  • Deep bites
  • Cross bites
  • Overjets
  • Crowding
  • Spacing
  • Teeth not emerging in the right sequence
  • Missing teeth
  • Ankylosed teeth: a condition where the tooth stops erupting and stays in the same place, causing the permanent tooth to be displaced upon emergence

Even if your child doesn’t need orthodontic treatment, an orthodontic consultation gives you the opportunity to become more comfortable with what we can do to help your child if future treatment is necessary. We want to see your entire family smile for a lifetime. Building a relationship with us when your child is young is just one of the ways we can make sure of those lasting smiles.

Orthodontic treatment and a child’s growth are meant to complement each other. By timing treatment to stages of dental development, orthodontics can take advantage of your child’s growth and development. Problems that can be treated in a growing child may alleviate more drastic and invasive procedures later.

Orthodontic Consultation

If you’re curious whether your child needs early orthodontic treatment or might need braces, please contact River Oaks Family Dental & Orthodontics to discuss your child’s case.