Seeking orthodontic treatment early – as young as age eight – is a very wise approach because it can actually prevent some conditions from worsening to a point where more extensive solutions may become necessary. This is called ‘interceptive treatment’.
How do I know if my child needs orthodontic treatment?
It can be difficult to work out whether or not your child needs orthodontic treatment. Often simply looking at the position of the jaw from the side will show if there is underbite or prominent deep-bite, and tooth crowding and spacing are also straightforward to spot. Habitual breathing through the mouth rather than the nose is not ideal and may be a sign of developing issues. One way of checking this is to watch your child when they are asleep - they should breathe through their nose when they are sleeping with their mouth closed and lips together.
Your dentist will be able to advise you, or if you have any doubts, we’d be happy to arrange a short consultation and provide you with appropriate advice.
Find out if your child is ready for braces.
When is the best time to begin orthodontics?
Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there’s actually an optimal time period to begin treatment. Starting then can potentially provide the best result in the shortest time and at a lesser expense. The Australian and American Association of Orthodontists recommends that an initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems, or by no later than the age of eight. Many children won’t require treatment at this stage, but by keeping a close eye on dental and skeletal development, we can make recommendations as to when it would be appropriate to begin any required treatment.
Why is age 8 considered the optimal time for screening?
By the age of eight, the first adult molars have usually erupted, establishing the back ‘bite’. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding or gummy smiles. If screening begins as early as age eight, it increases the chances for achieving an incredible smile.
What are the advantages of interceptive treatment?
Some of the potential benefits of interceptive treatment are:
Creating room for crowded erupting teeth.
Creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth.
Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth.
Preserving space for unerupted teeth.
Reducing the need for tooth removal.
Reducing treatment time with braces.
Elimination of crossbites that can have harmful effects on the developing teeth and jaws.
Management of thumb and digit sucking habits that can influence the development of teeth and gums.
Am I a candidate for orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontics is not only about improving the aesthetics of your smile. Orthodontic treatment also improves bad bites (malocclusions), which occur as a result of tooth or jaw misalignment. Malocclusions can affect the way you smile, chew and clean your teeth as well as how you feel about your smile.
Common Early (Interceptive) Treatments
Expanders are designed to increase the width of the upper jaw, improving the bite (e.g. crossbites) and providing more room for the developing teeth. Expanders are most beneficial in younger patients and can be either fixed or removable.
Functional (Orthopaedic) Appliances
Prominent or protruding upper front teeth can often be treated at an early stage to reduce the risk of injury or trauma. We can use removable appliances to achieve this; one option is a Functional Orthopaedic Appliance which uses the patient’s natural growth potential to encourage the lower jaw to grow in a more normal direction which will then reduce the relative protrusion of the top front teeth.
If you have any concerns about the way your child’s teeth are growing, or if your dentist has recommended an orthodontic examination, simply give us a call and we’ll be happy to make a booking and take a look.
Sometimes baby teeth can be lost due to accident or decay before they are ready to fall out. To avoid loss of space for the second tooth a space maintaining device is usually indicated. These simple and relatively inexpensive appliances can prevent the need for more expensive treatment later.
How long does interceptive orthodontic treatment take?
Initial treatment involves the fitting of an appliance - sometimes called a ‘plate’, which needs to be worn all the time over a period of between six to nine months with regular monthly visits to the clinic. After this initial phase, the appliance then needs to be worn in the evenings and at night for a period of up to 2-3 years, or until all permanent teeth have developed. Often by the age of 11-13 this treatment will have corrected the problems, although in some cases additional orthodontic work may be required to deal with any adult teeth that may be misaligned or rotated.