Early Treatment

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 see an orthodontist for the first time around age seven, to evaluate whether there are any problems developing that may need early intervention.

Early treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins between the ages of seven and nine (Phase Two, or comprehensive orthodontics, will begin around age 12-13). The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw or any bite problems that are developing, such as underbite or crossbite. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, reducing 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 permanent teeth by age 12-13)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Thumb sucking after age five
  • Speech impediments
  • Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other or stick out past the lips)
  • Teeth that don't bite together normally
  • Shifting of the lower jaw to the side when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (could indicate crossbites)
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight

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 bad bites can be genetic, or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.

Most children lose all of their baby teeth by age 13, and by the end of their teen years, the face and jaw bones will stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extractions or oral surgery, because there is no growth occuring that we can modify. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, which will reduce the chance of extractions or surgery in the future.

If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows any 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. We can examine your child, and discuss the best steps to take toward caring for your child's smile.