Observation & Guidance
It’s never too late or too early to begin orthodontic treatment! According to the American Association of Orthodontists, kids should have an initial orthodontic evaluation with an orthodontist by age seven. At this age, an orthodontist can evaluate the basic alignment of your child’s teeth and determine whether there is sufficient room for all of the permanent teeth to emerge. In most cases, if orthodontic work isn’t needed immediately, our team will simply monitor your child’s dental growth patterns until we see that it’s time for treatment to begin. Adolescent orthodontics is most efficient when timed properly and our observation program allows us to do this.
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. A few conditions to watch for include:
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.
Severe crowding 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 emerge from below the gums.
Early treatment may also be helpful in resolving several other problems, including protruding teeth, which can be prone to chipping and fractures and lead to problems with a child’s self-image, as well as a severe underbite, 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, often decreasing the need for surgery.
Overcoming Bad Habits
There are some situations where a youngster’s bad habits can 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. If thumb sucking persists past the ages of two to four, the pressure on the front teeth and the upper jaw can cause the teeth to move and the jaws to change shape.
Generally, most people lose their remaining baby teeth and develop the last of their permanent teeth between the ages of 11-13. Around this time, your orthodontist can work on correcting bad bites, improper tooth spacing, and poor tooth alignment. It’s easier to treat orthodontic issues during adolescence because the body is still growing rapidly and is more receptive to change. In later years, when the bones of the face and jaw are fully developed, many conditions become more difficult and costly to treat.
Orthodontic treatment timelines are different from person to person. In general, orthodontic treatment lasts between six-30 months. Afterward, patients wear a retainer to maintain the work completed during the active treatment phase.
Many adolescents undergo orthodontic treatment around the same time; patients feel more confident with their braces because classmates and friends have them too. They share in the process together, and when it’s done, they share smiles, they can be proud of and benefits that last a lifetime!