Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment. Beginning treatment at this time ensures the greatest result and the least amount of time and expense. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. At this early age, braces for children may not be necessary, but vigilant examination can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.
Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Prudent intervention guides growth and development, preventing serious problems later. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.
By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding or gummy smiles. Timely screening increases the chances for an incredible smile.
Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment are:
Braces for children are not merely for improving the aesthetics of the smile. Children’s braces improve bad bites (malocclusions) that occur as a result of tooth or jaw misalignment. Malocclusions affect the way you smile, chew, clean your teeth, or feel about your smile.
According to studies by the American Association of Orthodontists, untreated malocclusions can result in a variety of problems. Crowded teeth are more difficult to properly brush and floss, which may contribute to tooth decay and/or gum disease. Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental chipping. Crossbites can result in unfavorable growth and uneven tooth wear. Open bites can result in tongue-thrusting habits and speech impediments. Ultimately, children’s braces do more than make a pretty smile. They also create a healthier lifestyle.
Today, orthodontic treatment is simple, convenient and affordable for patients of all ages. Here are the three main reasons why people seek an orthodontist:
The most visible benefit of undergoing orthodontic treatment is the improved appearance and self-esteem that comes from a straight, beautiful smile! It has been shown that a better appearance can help a person’s academic, professional and personal success, and that one of the most significant factors of appearance is an attractive smile. Having a beautiful smile can help a patient look and feel better about themselves, which can have a significant impact on every aspect of their life. Certain appliances, used in conjunction with children’s braces, can modify the facial bone structure of a growing patient and improve the growth pattern of the jaws. This is why orthodontics has gained such popularity over the last few decades among children and adults alike.
Visiting the orthodontist improves oral health in many ways. Straight teeth are healthier and also easier to brush and floss, minimizing the risk for developing periodontal disease (gum disease). Teeth in proper alignment have less plaque buildup leading to healthier gums and fewer cavities. Also, certain bite issues can lead to damage to the teeth (fracture or abnormal wear of the enamel) and/or gums. Improper tooth alignment may cause gum recession, contributing to periodontal disease.
Some bite issues make it hard to chew, bite, enunciate certain sounds, or just find a comfortable place for the jaws to rest in. These functional problems can lead to clenching, grinding, muscle fatigue and spasm, which have been linked to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, headaches, and neck pain. By creating a healthier bite through orthodontic treatment, these problems may be prevented or alleviated.
Also called “Phase I” – Orthodontic warning signs in a 7 year old
Do the upper teeth protrude?
Excessive protrusion of the upper front teeth – “buck teeth” – is by far the most common orthodontic problem.
Is there an open bite?
The child can stick his or her tongue between the upper and lower front teeth when the back teeth are together.
Is there a deep bite?
The upper front teeth cover the lower front teeth too much.
Is there an underbite?
The upper teeth fit inside the arch of the lower teeth.
Do the midlines line up?
The spaces between the two upper front teeth and the lower front lower teeth should line up with each other and both should line up with the bridge of the nose. When they do not, the probable cause is drifted teeth or a shifted lower jaw, resulting in an improper bite.
How is spacing between the teeth?
Crowded or overlapped teeth, or noticeably large gaps between teeth.
Children’s braces can align teeth during your child’s growth and development stages. The timing of orthodontic treatment is appropriate when patients have baby teeth as well as permanent teeth. We, as orthodontists, will recommend the appropriate timing of treatment and give you options for your child’s specific needs.
Phase I may begin as early as 6-8 years of age. At this age your child usually has 12 of the permanent teeth present. This treatment helps correct harmful jaw discrepancies and makes dental adjustments that are best taken care of while the patient is growing. The treatment usually lasts for 12-18 months. Some reasons for interceptive treatment may be “buck teeth”, persistent thumb sucking habit, deficient jaw growth, early loss of baby teeth and maligned anterior teeth. It is very important to remember that Phase I treatment usually does not eliminate the need for later treatment of the permanent teeth.
Removable and/or fixed appliances will be used between Phase I and Phase II to help guide the eruption of any permanent teeth during this period. Observation visits every 3-6 months are needed to monitor your child’s progress between phases.
Phase II (definitive treatment) braces are used to adjust the positions of your permanent teeth to develop a proper bite and achieve the best aesthetic results. This phase is usually started when there are only a few baby teeth remaining which occurs at approximately 10-12 years of age.