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 son or daughter 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 as early as age seven. At this point we will evaluate whether your little one will need orthodontic treatment.

Early treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins around age eight or nine. Phase Two will begin around age 11 or older. The goal of early treatment is to improve the growth of the jaws and correct certain bite problems, such as an underbite or crossbites. Early treatment also helps to break thumb habits, or make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, which lowers the chance of 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 around age 13). Losing baby teeth early can cause loss of space.
  • Underbites or crossbites: the lower teeth should never overlap the upper teeth.
  • Your child continues sucking his or her thumb or fingers after age five. Finger habits can cause the upper jaw to become narrow and flare the front teeth.
  • Mouth breathing can cause narrowing of the palate and sleep problems.
  • Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or fail to erupt
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight, or lack of room for eruption of adjacent teeth

What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early treatment benefit my child?

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, or too much space between them, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited from parents or caused by early or late loss of baby teeth, thumb-sucking habits, or injury.

Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 12 or 13. By the end of their teen years, the growth plates in the jaws will fuse and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or corrective jaw surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can reduce the need for extractions or jaw surgery in the future.

If your youngster is between the ages of seven and eight and you suspect something isn’t right with your his or her teeth, or you have been directed by your family dentist to visit an orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule a complimentary screening appointment.

Dr. Ward will personally examine your son or daughter’s bite and discuss any concerns with you as well as the best steps to take toward caring for your child’s smile.