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We recommend that a child receive their first orthodontic screening between 8 and 10 years of age, unless your pedodontist or dentist recommends an earlier age. Seeing a child at this age helps us recognize problems that can be corrected before they become more serious.
In an ideal world, orthodontic treatment would be started after all the permanent teeth have erupted. Permanent teeth erupt over a considerable amount of time, between the ages 6 to 12 years. It is not unusual for eruptions to be delayed, even as late as 14 years. So while some fifth graders may have all their permanent teeth, there are many ninth graders who are still loosing teeth!
During these developing years, many issues may need to be addressed. We refer to treatment needed at this age as Phase I treatment. This is a period of time during which a specific issue is addressed, and after the issue is corrected, the braces or orthodontic appliances are stopped. The time between Phase I and the start of Phase II is dependent on the eruption of the remaining permanent teeth, it can often range from one to two years.
The photos below illustrate several situations that occur early in a child’s life. The first photo illustrates a problem with insufficient space for the upper teeth. The second photo illustrates a crossbite of the upper teeth with the lower teeth. In both cases expansion of the upper jaw, as seen in the above animation, and alignment of the incisor teeth is very beneficial to a young child, setting the stage for full orthodontics without the removal of permanent teeth.
The third photo illustrates a problem that occurs when the upper incisors are in cross bite with the lower incisors. This has resulted in recession of the gum tissue and exposure of the lower incisor root. This problem should be corrected early in life. It is a prime example of why we recommend seeing the orthodontist early.
Being teased at school is a serious concern and is heartbreaking to parents when their child comes home devastated by other children’s cruelty. This is one of the primary reasons for early treatment. The psychological effect on a child’s development should not be underestimated. Correcting overbites (see animation of a crossbow appliance to correct overbites) and severe crowding can have a dramatic effect on a child’s self esteem and confidence. The ultimate goal of orthodontics is to help our patients become everything they were intended to be, and it often begins with creating confidence at an early age!
The animation below illustrates the importance of preserving space for unerupted permanent teeth. It is important to understand that the early loss of primary teeth can create crowding and even impaction of permanent teeth prior to their eruption. In addition, careful management of arch space by the orthodontist can make the difference between extracting or not extracting permanent teeth at a later date. This animation of the use of a lingual arch as a space maintainer further demonstrates the importance of seeing the orthodontist early in a child’s development.
To find out if your child is a candidate for early interceptive treatment, contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation.