One of the most commonly asked questions is at what age should I bring my child in for an orthodontic examination? Of course, orthodontics can be done at any age; however certain problems are best corrected at developmental stages. Although individual dental and jaw growth problems determine the best time to start orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child should have an orthodontic screening no later than age 7.
The sooner orthodontic problems are explored, the better a family can plan for, and understand the benefits of correction. Although rarely is treatment required much earlier than age 7, some very difficult to correct growth problems should be attempted earlier. It might be the best chance to avoid potential surgical intervention later in life. Many parents assume they must wait until their child has all of his or her permanent teeth before considering orthodontic alignment. Sometimes, parents find out that treatment would have been much easier for their child to go through if started earlier.
Early orthodontic treatment can have a tremendous impact on a young person’s dental health and emotional well being. Almost all children feel better about themselves when they can smile with confidence. No child should wait until reaching their teens to feel good about his or her smile.
Most people associate orthodontic treatment with teenage children, however orthodontists can spot developing problems with jaw growth or with the teeth much earlier, while the primary or “baby” teeth are present. Some of the more noticeable conditions that indicate the need for early examination include:
- Early loss of teeth
- Difficulty in chewing or biting
- Teeth that meet abnormally
- Crowding, misplaced or blocked-out teeth
- Biting the cheek or the roof of the mouth
- Jaws that are too far forward or back
When appropriate, early orthodontic treatment, commonly referred to as Phase One, can begin when children are 6 to 10 years of age.
- Patient cooperation (always necessary for successful orthodontic treatment) is commonly excellent at early ages.
- There are a variety of orthodontic appliances designed to guide jaw growth. In some patients, early treatment achieves results that may not be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing. The combination of an actively growing patient along with enthusiasm in this young age produces results that cannot be achieved when treatment is delayed until teeth have emerged in the 11-13 year old group.
- Early treatment can prevent serious dental problems and eliminate the need for more drastic measures down the road. Most bite problems are inherited, although these dental problems cannot be prevented, early diagnosis and correction can help return the bite to a normal growth pattern.
After The First Stage of Treatment
- When orthodontic treatment is required while “baby” teeth are still present in the mouth, this treatment is necessary to correct a growth problem. In most cases, a second phase of treatment (full braces) is required when all the permanent teeth are ready to grow in. This second stage is necessary to complete the tooth and bite alignment, and is quite often referred to as Phase 2.
- The time between the first and second phase of treatment can vary from patient to patient. During this time, retainers are worn as needed and the patient continues to be seen by the orthodontist and is re-examined on a regular basis.
The need for two treatment phases means that the original jaw growth and dental development showed enough complications to require early intervention. This also means more time, effort, braces and expense related to treatment, however the rewards are well worth it.