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Early Orthodontic 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 as early as age seven. At this point the orthodontist will evaluate whether your child will need orthodontic treatment.

Early treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins around age eight or nine (Phase Two will begin around age 12 or older). The goal of early treatment is to correct certain issues such as severe crowding, jaw growth imbalances, and certain bite problems. Early treatment helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of extractions in the future. Not all younger children need early treatment.

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 six, and will have all permanent teeth around age 12)
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting food
  • Thumb or finger sucking beyond age five
  • Crossbites (teeth biting on the wrong side of the opposing teeth)
  • Protruding teeth 
  • Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all
  • Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth 
  • Jaws that pop or make sounds when opening and closing
  • Jaws and teeth that are not proportionate to the rest of the face

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

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of 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 12, and by the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will 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 seven and eight and shows 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. 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.

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