Does Your Child Need an Early Orthodontic Intervention?

Posted on 04/20/2017 by Dr. Lovrovich
A young boy in need of dental care.

Many children need orthodontic intervention in order to improve the appearance and function of their smile. However, while most kids won’t start sporting braces or other orthodontic appliances until their pre-teen years, others may need to begin the process sooner than that.

There are a variety of orthodontic problems that can be easier to fix if they are detected early, and early orthodontic treatment can prevent more serious problems from developing later on.

Signs that Early Orthodontic Treatment Might Be Needed

There are several signs that can indicate problems with the teeth and bite that may require early orthodontic treatment:

  • Missing or extra teeth
  • Excess spaces located between the teeth
  • Bite problems, including crossbite, underbite, and overbite
  • Teeth that severely protrude
  • Teeth that are severely crowded
  • Narrow lower or upper jaws

Remember that even teeth that appear straight could be hiding a problem. Likewise, when orthodontic treatment is needed, an orthodontist can monitor the development and growth so that treatment can be started at the most appropriate times.

When to Pursue an Early Orthodontic Evaluation

Age seven is the ideal time to have your children screened to see if early orthodontic intervention is necessary. By this age, the first permanent molars will be erupting, establishing the bite in the back portion of the mouth. Around this time, an orthodontist can be used to evaluate the side-to-side and front-to-back relationships of the teeth and predict potential changes. By pursuing screening in a timely manner, you can increase your child’s chances for maintaining a beautiful smile later on in life.

Phase I of Early Orthodontic Treatment

If your child is in need of early orthodontic intervention, he will probably be started on a two phase process. The first stage will typically begin immediately while your child still has most of his baby teeth, and the second phase won’t begin until he is older. There are a variety of goals associated with the first phase, also known as early treatment:

  • Correcting harmful and damaging oral habits
  • Enabling correct chewing and biting
  • Intercepting a developing orthodontic problem
  • Guiding proper growth and alignment of the jaw bone
  • Improve the appearance of the smile and facial profile
  • Guiding the permanent teeth to move into a more desirable position
  • Minimizing the risk of breaking and damaging the protruding front teeth

Early intervention will take advantage of the fact that your child’s jaw is still growing. Devices like a palatal expander could be used to expand his upper dental arch to its proper size, allowing for a better chance that the permanent teeth can erupt into a better position. In some situations, the teeth can still be crowded, and in certain scenarios, some of the permanent teeth will need to be removed so that the rest are able to align properly.

This first phase of orthodontic treatment will typically only take between six and ten months, but the exact treatment time will depend on the patient’s age, the problem that is going to be addressed, and how cooperative the patient is with the treatment program.

Phase II of Early Orthodontic Treatment

The second phase of an early orthodontic treatment will typically be started during the pre-teen years, and in most cases, it will consist of traditional braces. This phase is designed to move the permanent teeth into their desired final position.

This process continues with the first phase of treatment by continuing to improve the facial appearance and teeth function while boosting the confidence and self-esteem of the child. This treatment is expected to complement the first phase in order to achieve the best possible results.

If you are concerned that your child might need an early orthodontic intervention, please be sure to call our office to set up a consultation.

4540 Sand Point Way NE, Suite 140
Seattle WA 98105-3941

Tel: (206) 525-7000
Fax: (206) 525-0479

Driving Directions