There isn’t an exact age for children to start orthodontic treatment. However, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that they visit the orthodontist at around age seven.
By this time, most kids will have a combination of adult and baby teeth which makes it easier for Dr. Marshall to diagnose and treat tooth and jaw problems sooner and without surgical intervention.
At this point, she’ll also evaluate whether your child will need early orthodontic treatment.
Early Treatment for Children
Early treatment (known as Phase One) begins around age eight or nine. Usually, Phase Two begins around age 11 or older. Through early treatment, we can correct the jaw’s growth and certain bite problems, like an underbite. Early treatment also makes room for permanent teeth to come in correctly, which reduces the chance that your child will need extractions in the future.
How to Tell if Your Child Might Need Early Treatment
It might not be easy for parents to know if their child needs orthodontic treatment. Here are a few things to look out for:
• Losing baby teeth too early or too late. Typically, children will start losing teeth around age five and have all permanent teeth around age 13.
• Having a hard time chewing or biting food.
• Mouth breathing.
• Sucking their fingers or thumbs after age five.
• Speech impediments.
• Protruding teeth, where the top and bottom teeth extend away from each other.
• Crowded, misplaced, or blocked teeth.
• Teeth that come together abnormally or not at all.
• Jaws that pop or make other sounds when opening and closing
• Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes their mouth (crossbites).
• Jaws and teeth that are not proportionate to the rest of the face.
• Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight.
Benefits of Early Treatment by an Orthodontist
Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, and their jaw bones will harden and stop growing at the end of their teen years. In addition, orthodontic treatment for adults usually takes longer and might even involve tooth extraction or oral surgery.
Providing early treatment for your child helps prevent orthodontic treatment as an adult, and leaves little to no chance of future extractions or surgery. The following are some of the benefits your child may experience from early treatment:
• Corrects and guides the growth of your child’s jaw so that permanent teeth come in straight.
• Regulates the width of the upper and lower arches.
• Creates more space for crowded teeth.
• Corrects thumb sucking and helps improve minor speech problems.
• Avoids the need for permanent tooth extractions or surgery later in life.
What Causes Orthodontic Problems?
Some orthodontic problems like crowded teeth, jaw growth problems, bad bites, and too much space between the teeth are inherited or caused by mouth injuries, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking.
If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic treatment, or if you’ve been referred to us by your family dentist, please contact us for an orthodontic evaluation.
Making sure your child receives early treatment will give them a healthy and beautiful smile in the future!