Early Orthodontic Treatment
It's never too late to begin orthodontic treatment, but it is ever too early? Young children need their teeth taken care of just like adults do, but is there a recommended age that a child must reach before they can begin orthodontic treatment?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should have their first orthodontic screening when they're 7. But just because early evaluation is recommended, that doesn't mean early intervention is needed. In the majority of cases where orthodontic work is not needed at that age, we will monitor the child's growth patterns until it's time to begin treatment. This allows us to get the best results more efficiently and to detect and prevent future problems.
Most children start receiving their first permanent molars around age 6, at which point we can evaluate how the teeth align and (potentially) whether there's enough room in the mouth for all the permanent teeth to come in. If there isn't enough space, we'll need to intervene.
When Is the Ideal Time to Start Treating Orthodontic Problems?
We try to start treating the more common orthodontic problems around age 9 to 14 when all of the baby teeth are out and most of the permanent teeth are in. But some conditions are easier to treat if caught at a younger age. Severe crossbites, crowding, and protruding teeth are all examples of orthodontic problems that fall into this category.
Bad Habits in Childhood Can Lead to Orthodontic Problems
We all pick up bad habits from time to time, but sometimes small children acquire habits, such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and mouth breathing, that can influence the way their teeth, mouth, and jaws develop and function.
Sucking and Tongue Thrusting
Sucking is normal in early childhood and usually goes away between ages 2 and 4. But if it lasts longer than that, the jaws can become misshaped, and the teeth can move apart because of the pressure the thumb puts on the upper jaw and front teeth. This can lead to a spacing problem called open bite that can impair the child's speech. Tongue thrusting, where the child pushes his tongue against the front teeth, can also lead to open bite.
Mouth breathing is an abnormal breathing pattern where the mouth remains constantly open and passes air directly to the lungs. This condition is tied to changes in the muscular function of the face and tongue and can also cause abnormal growth in the lower and upper jaws, leading to further orthodontic problems. Mouth breathing often results from physical difficulties breathing through one's nose, and it can turn into a hard habit to break.
We have a variety of orthodontic treatments that can help fix these childhood habits and the problems they cause for your child's teeth and mouth. The sooner we take action and address them, the less damage they'll cause. But since it's often difficult to recognize some of these problems, you should schedule an early orthodontic screening for your child by age 7.
For more information, please contact our office: 215-800-0015.