What age and what benefits from early orthodontic treatment?
Parents usually have many questions about orthodontic treatment for their children. The Australian Society of Orthodontists recommends children between the ages of 8-10 years visit a specialist orthodontist for assessment.
This allows the orthodontist to evaluate your child’s existing and incoming teeth and determine whether or not early treatment might be necessary.
Typically the first molars have come in, giving your orthodontist an opportunity to check for malocclusion, also known as “bad bite.” Incisors have also usually begun to come in and problems such as crowding, deep bites and open bites can be detected.
Although treatment usually will not begin until one to five years after the initial evaluation, it is still helpful in determining whether your child has any problems with the jaw and teeth early, when they may well be easier to treat. Earlier treatment can also be financially beneficial to correct a potential problem than delayed treatment. For some children, early treatment can prevent physical and emotional trauma. Aside from spurring years of harmful teasing, misaligned teeth are also prone to injury - particularly while playing sports - and are detrimental to good oral hygiene.
Early orthodontic treatment, known as Phase One, aims to correct bite problems such as an underbite as well as guide the jaw’s growth pattern. It also helps to make room in the mouth for the permanent teeth to be properly placed as they come in. This will greatly reduce the risk of a child needing extractions later in life due to teeth getting crowded.
There are several ways you can determine whether your child needs early treatment. If you observe any of these characteristics or behaviours, visit an orthodontist:
- Early loss of baby teeth (before age five)
- Late loss of baby teeth (after age five or six)
- The child’s teeth do not meet properly or at all
- The child is a mouth breather
- Front teeth are crowded (you won’t see this until the child is about seven or eight)
- Protruding teeth, typically in the front
- Biting or chewing difficulties
- A speech impediment
- The child’s jaw shifts when he or she opens or closes the mouth
- The child is older than five years and still sucks a thumb
Early orthodontic treatment begins while a child’s jaw bones are still soft. They do not harden until children reach their late teens. As the bones are still pliable, corrective procedures such as braces work faster than they do for adults. Early treatment is an effective preventive measure that lays the foundation for a healthy, stable mouth in adulthood.