The Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment

The Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment

Timing is everything when it comes to your child’s orthodontic treatment. Some problems can be corrected before the adult teeth erupt or be prevented from worsening. This is called “Early” or “interceptive” treatment, which is minor treatment that is completed while some baby teeth are still present.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that your child’s first check-up with an orthodontist be performed by age 7. That is because your child is then old enough for an orthodontist to evaluate the developing teeth and the jaws and recognize many potential developing problems. An orthodontist is trained to detect subtle problems during development.

There are generally three outcomes of an initial check-up:

  1. No treatment is anticipated to be necessary.
  2. Treatment may be needed in the future, so the child will be followed periodically while the teeth and jaws grow.
  3. There is a problem that would benefit from early treatment. 

These are ordered in the sequence of most likely to least likely. While there are many orthodontic problems that orthodontists agree are best treated after all permanent teeth have come in, early treatment can be in a patient’s best interests if their problem is one that could become more serious over time if left untreated. The goal of early treatment is to stop the developing problem, eliminate the cause, guide the growth of facial and jaw bones, and provide adequate space for incoming permanent teeth. A patient may require a second course of treatment after all permanent teeth have come in to move those teeth into their best positions.

The kinds of problems orthodontists may recommend treating while a child still has some baby teeth include:

  • Underbites – when the lower front teeth are ahead of the upper front teeth
  • Crossbites – when the jaw shifts to one side
  • Very crowded teeth
  • Extra or missing teeth
  • Teeth that meet abnormally, or don’t meet at all
  • Thumb-, finger-, or pacifier- sucking habit that is affecting the teeth or jaw growth
    Some of these orthodontic problems are inherited, while others may result from events occurring during development such as accidents, dental disease, or abnormal swallowing.

Early orthodontic treatment can take many forms. The orthodontist could prescribe a fixed or removable “appliance” – a device used to move teeth, change the position of the jaw, or hold teeth in place in order to bring about desirable changes. Sometimes no appliances are necessary. Rather, removal of some baby teeth may help the permanent teeth erupt better. The extractions will be timed to take best advantage of a patient’s growth and development.

Regardless of how treatment goals are reached, the bottom line is that some orthodontic problems may be easier to correct if they are found and treated early. Waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction of some problems more difficult.

To give your child the best opportunity for a healthy, beautiful smile, visit an orthodontist for an evaluation. We, like many orthodontists, provide an initial consultation at no cost and with no obligation. You will receive a rundown of any potential problems and recommend treatment when it is most appropriate for your child. Remember, timing is everything.

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