The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first see an orthodontist for a screening by the age of 7. If you thought orthodontic treatment was reserved for teens, you might be surprised by this recommendation, but we know now that the most effective approach to orthodontics is a preventive model. In the past, it was more common to wait for orthodontic issues to emerge and then treat them, but today, we use early orthodontics to influence the jaw while it’s still developing.
Although children are evaluated around the age of 7, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will also be starting orthodontic treatment at this time. During your child’s first appointment, Dr. Hass will identify any potential orthodontic issues and set up a follow-up schedule for monitoring your child’s development in order to pinpoint the ideal time to start treatment.
Early Orthodontic Treatment Options
Early orthodontic treatment may require interceptive orthodontics, or orthodontic appliances that are designed to prevent improper growth. Some common interceptive orthodontic appliances used for young patients include:
- Habit Appliances – A habit appliance is meant to stop harmful oral habits like tongue thrusting and thumb or finger sucking. These appliances may be used in patients younger than 7 when a habit is severe or already beginning to cause orthodontic issues.
- Space Maintainers – If a primary tooth is lost too early, neighboring teeth may drift into the open space and block the secondary (permanent) tooth from erupting properly when the time comes. Space maintainers fit into the space where the primary tooth once was to prevent this from occurring.
- Palatal Expanders – When the upper jaw doesn’t have enough room for adult teeth to erupt without crowding, a palatal expander can be used to create more space without having to extract secondary teeth.
Successful early orthodontic treatment can reduce the amount of time needed for braces in the teen years, and occasionally even eliminate the need for braces altogether.
Frequently Asked Questions About Early Orthodontic Treatment
What is early orthodontic treatment?
Early orthodontic treatment influences the jaw as it is developing in order to prevent crowding, misaligned teeth, and improper bite.
What is the best age to start early orthodontic treatment?
The best age to start early orthodontic treatment is when your child needs it! Every patient has different needs, so while it’s most common to start treatment between the ages of 9 and 14, some children may need treatment sooner.
What is Phase I orthodontic treatment?
Phase I orthodontic treatment is another term used for early orthodontic treatment.
Does my child need a space maintainer?
Your child might need a space maintainer if a primary tooth was knocked out or extracted well before we’d expect their permanent tooth to erupt.
Are palatal expanders effective?
Yes, palatal expanders are an effective treatment option when a jaw is too narrow to accommodate permanent teeth.
Call 828-464-5300 to schedule an appointment.