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The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child have an orthodontic evaluation around their 7th birthday. An orthodontist will advise you what, if anything, should be done at an early age and what can wait until he or she is older. You have the opportunity to plan ahead knowing what treatment is likely to be needed in the future. Occasionally, with proper intervention or space management, it can reduce the time spent in braces.

Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children

What is the difference between early orthodontic treatment and regular orthodontic treatment, and why might my child need early treatment? How will early treatment benefit my child in the long run?

Early treatment (also known as Phase One) typically begins around age eight or nine (Phase Two will begin around age 11 or older). The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as underbite. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of extractions in the future.

How can you tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment?

  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)
  • Mouth breathing
  • Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
  • Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
  • Speech impediments
  • Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or even at all
  • Your child continues sucking his or her thumb after age five

What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early prevention benefit my child?

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.

Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, and by the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, and reduce the chance of permanent tooth extractions or surgery in the future.

Please call our office for any other questions or concerns that you might have.

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