You probably know that it's never too late to begin orthodontic treatment—but did you know that it’s never too early to start it either? According to the American Association of Orthodontists, kids should have an initial orthodontic evaluation with their local orthodontist by age seven.
Why is an Early Evaluation Important?
Although every child's development is different, in most cases the first adult molars begin to emerge around age six. This, along with other developmental markers, lets your orthodontist appraise the basic alignment of your child’s teeth. As a result, your orthodontist can determine whether there is sufficient room for all of the permanent teeth to emerge. If not, then preemptive action may need to be taken to keep more serious issues from developing down the line.It’s important to recognize that an early evaluation isn't necessarily followed by early treatment. In most cases, if orthodontic work is needed our team will simply monitor your child's dental growth patterns until we see that it's time for treatment to begin. This approach gives us an opportunity to get the best results in the most efficient way possible.
When is Early Treatment Necessary?
Treatment for common orthodontic problems typically begins between the ages of nine and fourteen, because by this time all of the baby teeth are gone and many of the permanent teeth are in place.However, some orthodontic conditions are much easier to treat if they're caught at an early age when a child's greater growth processes are occurring. That is why early orthodontic treatment at our Morehead City, Havelock, or Jacksonville, NC office is a great idea for your child.
Conditions to Watch
One example of a condition that is much easier to treat if caught early on is severe crossbite. This is a condition where the upper teeth close inside the lower teeth. To treat this problem a device called a palatal expander can be used, which gradually and painlessly widens the upper jaw. This device is especially effective when the jaw hasn't fully developed. If you wait too long, a more complicated treatment—or even jaw surgery—could become necessary.
Another condition that may benefit from early treatment is severe crowding. This occurs when the jaws are too small to accommodate all of the permanent teeth. Your orthodontist might recommend palatal expansion or tooth extraction to help the adult teeth erupt (emerge from below the gums). Even if braces are required later, that treatment time will likely be much shorter and less complicated than if the patient had not come in for early treatment in the first place.
Early treatment may also be helpful in resolving several other problems, including:
- Protruding teeth, which can be prone to chipping and fractures. They may also lead to problems with a child's self-image.
- A severe underbite caused by the lower jaw growing much larger than the upper jaw, which can result in serious bite problems.
Orthodontic appliances like braces and headgear can be successfully used to correct these problems during the early stages of a child's development, thereby increasing the chances of avoiding surgery.
Overcoming Bad Habits
At one time or another, most people pick up bad habits. But there are some situations where a youngster's parafunctional (detrimental to health) habits can actually influence the development and function of his or her teeth, jaws and mouth. Some examples of these habits are persistent thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and mouth breathing.
The sucking reflex is natural in early childhood, and it usually disappears between ages two and four. If it persists much longer than that, the pressure of the digit on the front teeth and the upper jaw can actually cause the teeth to move and the jaws to change shape. This can lead to an orthodontic problem called “open bite,” and may impair speech.
Correcting Parafunctional Habits
Various orthodontic treatments are available to help correct parafunctional habits—and the earlier they're taken care of, the less damage they cause. But these potential problems aren't always easy to recognize. That's one more reason to bring your child in for an early orthodontic evaluation at our Morehead City, Havelock, or Jacksonville, NC office.
Smiles That Last a Lifetime
Give your child an early start to a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles. Contact the team at our Morehead City, Havelock, or Jacksonville, NC office today to schedule your child’s early evaluation, or to learn more about the services we offer. We can’t wait to help you and your child smile brighter!
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