Why Do Some Children Undergo Orthodontic Treatment at an Early Age?
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As an orthodontic practitioner for over 27 years, I often get asked by a parent, “Why do some of my child’s 2nd grade classmates already have braces?” When you think about it, this question makes sense because, on average, a child does not have all of the permanent teeth erupt until four years later at age 12.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get an orthodontic evaluation by a specialist at the age of 7. A check-up at this age may reveal that a child’s bite is just fine. Or, the orthodontist may identify a developing problem but advise that he continue to monitor the child’s facial growth and dental development periodically; and then, if indicated, begin treatment at the appropriate time. In other cases, the orthodontist may find a problem that can benefit from early (interceptive) treatment.
Early treatment may prevent or intercept more serious problems from developing and may make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. In some cases the orthodontist will be able to achieve more optimal results that may not be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing.
Early treatment may give your orthodontist a chance to:
• Guide jaw growth
• Lower the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
• Correct harmful oral habits
• Improve appearance
• Guide permanent teeth into a more favorable position
• Create a more pleasing arrangement of teeth, lips, and face
Some signs or habits that may indicate the need for an early orthodontic consultation include early or late loss of baby teeth, difficulty in chewing or biting, mouth breathing, thumb or finger sucking, crowding, displaced or blocked-out teeth, biting the cheek or roof of the mouth, teeth that meet abnormally or not at all, jaws or teeth that are out of proportion to one another, and a smile that is not symmetrical.
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Because patients differ in both physiological development and treatment needs, the orthodontist’s goal is to provide each patient with the most appropriate treatment at the most appropriate time. Through an early orthodontic evaluation, you’ll be giving your child the best opportunity for a healthy, beautiful smile—for a lifetime!