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The Importance of Early Orthodontic Treatment in Your Child


As mothers and fathers you look at your children and see if they are developing normally.  Every parent knows that his or her child is special and adorable.  There are some characteristics of children that you may think why he/she looks the way they do.  Why is their jaw smaller then our neighbor’s children?  Why do they walk with their head tilted forward, they snore at night or grind their teeth.  This is all part of growth and development of the child and you should discuss this with your dentist or orthodontist to make sure that we are on track.  We can catch the children in their growth spurt and correct some deficiencies while they are happening and not when it is too late.

Today’s parents do not accept the answers given by some dentist and orthodontists about “just waiting” when they see that their children have crowded teeth, protruding teeth and spaces between the teeth.  Sometimes parents are told that “no treatment is indicated at this time.  The malocclusion should be observed and corrected when the child is older and the permanent teeth have erupted.”  The trouble with this is that once the permanent teeth have erupted we have missed the window of opportunity to take advantage of the natural growth in an individual.  Sometimes when we have missed this window of opportunity we are at a disadvantage to try and straighten the teeth.  We may have the room for all the teeth and we may not, we may have to remove teeth at that time or we may have to even do surgery.  Malocclusions when left untreated worsen over time and those that are trained in a preventive philosophy see waiting as inappropriate in most cases.

The Burlington Growth Study, Toronto, Canada stated that 75% of children at the age of 12 have some form of malocclusion.  Meaning that most of the children in our society have teeth that are out of place in some way.  Since most of the growth and development in the face is completed by age 12 we want to correct the discrepancies early through functional-orthopedic appliances first and fixed braces second, which is known as a two phase treatment.  We can straighten teeth at any age but we can start as early as 4, but the average age is between 9 and 10.

Phase 1 (Orthopedic phase):

                Thumb sucking, digital habits, anterior and lateral tongue thrusts, airway problems including mouth breathing, snoring and jaw joint problems (TMJ) must be corrected early with functional appliances.  Skeletal problems such as constricted maxillary and mandibular arches, prognathic (large jaw or pushed forward) or retrognathic (small jaw or pushed back) mandibles are best treated as early as possible with functional appliances in the mixed dentition.

Phase 2 (Orthodontic phase):

                Strictly dental problems related to the teeth can be corrected with fixed braces.  Crooked teeth, minor crowding and rotated teeth, leveling and aligning of the teeth, settling the occlusion, minor open and closed bite corrections all associated with the permanent dentition.

The benefits of early treatment:

 We can correct the majority of malocclusions without extractions of permanent teeth and surgery is not indicated to reposition the jaws, we can influence jaw growth in a positive manor, harmonize the width of the dental arches, improve eruption patterns, lower the risk of trauma to protruded upper incisors, correct harmful oral habits, improve aesthetics and self-esteem, simplify and/or shorten treatment time for later orthodontic correction, reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth,  improve speech problems, preserve/gain space for the erupting permanent teeth, improve breathing and airway problems.

The wait and see approach does not even seem like an option when you look at the benefits of starting treatment early.  Prevention is the key in most medicines and this is no different.  Please talk with your dentist or orthodontist about early correction of dental problems and if you don’t get the answers you are looking for then look for someone that is going to provide you with the solution you seek.