Braces are often regarded as being a rite of passage, but modern orthodontics has changed considerably over the past few years. Now treatment has become increasingly advanced and can be useful at a surprisingly young age. If your child regularly visits your dentist, then you will already know that dentists take a preventative approach towards pediatric dental care.
Orthodontics is no exception and our friendly and highly skilled dental team keep a close eye on the way a child’s teeth and jaws begin to develop. If your dentist feels they will benefit, he/she might recommend your kid has an early orthodontic evaluation. This can take place as soon as age 6 or seven.
Isn’t This a Bit Early for a Child to See an Orthodontist?
This is a question dentist often get asked by parents and caregivers when they suggest their six or seven-year-old child should see an orthodontist. Early orthodontic evaluations are just one-way orthodontics has evolved over the past few years.
So, what is the main reason for having such an early evaluation?
By this stage, an orthodontist can tell quite a lot about how your child’s teeth and jaws will develop. A careful assessment will enable them to determine if any problems are likely to develop later on, and if so how best to treat them. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will need treatment straight away, but it does allow your child’s pediatric dentist and their orthodontist to monitor growth patterns.
This way treatment can be planned at an optimal time. If treatment is required then it may be preventative, interceptive or designed to modify the shape of their jaws. Identifying potential issues often before they actually develop will help save time and money. It may prevent certain orthodontic problems from developing sometime in the future.
The Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment
There are a number of ways early orthodontic treatment can help a child. For example, by taking this approach dentist can ensure that there is sufficient room for teeth yet to erupt, reducing the chances of problems with overcrowding.
Early orthodontic treatment can often be used to treat problems with protrusive front teeth. This helps a child to look more attractive, but it also helps to lower the risk of injury to these teeth.
Often early treatment can reduce the need for treatment later on when they are in their teens. This means if they do need to wear braces, then treatment will be faster and more straightforward. When a child is young, their jaws are still developing and dentists can use specialized orthodontic appliances that help guide this jaw growth. It’s the perfect age to do this as the jaws are still soft enough and treatment can be planned to provide the best level of facial symmetry.
This helps ensure that your child will grow up with the very best facial profile and it’s extremely effective. Early treatment can help various conditions, in particular, problems with malocclusion. For example, if your child has a severe cross bite where the upper teeth meet inside the lower teeth, an orthodontist can use what’s called a palatal expander. This is a specialized dental appliance that is gradually adjusted to help widen the upper jaw.
It’s the kind of treatment that is best carried out while the jaw is still developing. Using a palatal expander can help avoid the need for much more complicated treatment or even surgery to correct this problem at a later date. Palatal expanders can also be used to treat problems with severely overcrowded teeth and where the jaws are simply too small to accommodate all the permanent teeth.
Correcting Oral Habits
Lots of young children suck their thumb or finger or may have a habit of mouth breathing or tongue thrusting. Most will stop sucking their thumb by age 4. If the habit persists beyond this age, then it can cause developmental problems for the upper teeth and jaws.
The pressure created by sucking on a thumb actually pulls the upper jaw forwards. This causes it to elongate so the upper teeth no longer meet together correctly with the lower teeth.
This can lead to what’s called an open bite and it may affect a child’s speech. An open bite can also be created by the force of tongue thrusting, where the tongue pushes on the upper teeth.
Mouth breathing causes changes to the muscles in the face and tongue and this can affect the growth of the upper and lower jaw. There are several orthodontic appliances that can be used to correct these habits and often it’s easy to overlook the potential damage caused.
This is yet another reason why it’s so important to make sure your child has an early orthodontic evaluation.
What about Older Children Who Never Had the Chance for an Orthodontic Evaluation?
If your child never had an early orthodontic evaluation and you think they might need orthodontic treatment, then please don’t worry as it is never too late. There are many different orthodontic treatments that can be used to help bring their teeth back into the correct arrangement so they bite together correctly. Treatment at this age can also do a lot to help improve the appearance of their smile.
Dentists know older children and teenagers are sometimes self-conscious about the thought of wearing braces, particularly if they are already a bit shy. The good news is that there are a number of extremely discreet braces that may be suitable for your child. If they require fixed braces, then your dentist can frequently use brackets that are clear or tooth colored and which are attached to very thin wires.
With older teens, it may even be possible for them to use clear aligners. These are removable thin plastic covers that fit tightly over their teeth, moving them into positions that will have been predetermined by your dentist.
Your dentist will have all the treatments needed to keep your family’s teeth in great shape. If you or anyone else in your family is overdue for a checkup or hygiene appointment, why not contact your dentist today? Dentists’ preventative approach to dentistry means they work hard to ensure your smile is naturally healthy and beautiful.