Early Interceptive 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 by the age of 7 for screening or before this age if there is a specific developmental  concern. At the initial appointment Dr. Gibson will evaluate facial and dental growth and development  and determine the best timng for orthodontic treatment if needed. 

Early evaluation is very important to allow for optimal treatment timing. Significant facial growth occurs by the age of 7, and in girls, facial growth is nearing completion by the age of 12. Interceptive orthodontic treatment is most effective when there is a lot of remaining facial and dental growth to work with, and that is why early evaluation is so key. 

Early interceptive treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins between seven and nine years of age and last for 6-14 months. The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as cross-bite and underbite. In some children, there is also significant improvement of airway function. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, and may lessen the chance of impaction or extraction of the teeth in the future.

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 five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13-14)
  • Cross-bite or underbite
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Your child continues sucking his or her thumb after age five
  • Speech impediments
  • Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
  • 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 (crossbites)
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight

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

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between 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 13, and by the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults may 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 pediatrician or 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 developing smile.