Most parents understand the need for early dental visits for their children, often as early as six to eight months old, depending on when the child’s first tooth comes in. These first visits are designed to familiarize the child with the dentist and make them comfortable with having their teeth examined regularly.
There is another benefit to beginning dental visits so early, though. The dentist can begin to identify potential orthodontic problems as the child’s teeth come in. An orthodontic visit may then be recommended. This will allow the opportunity to determine how to proceed with early children’s orthodontic treatment to provide permanent teeth with enough growing space and to correct any jaw deficiencies. All of this can save significant time and money later.
In this article, we’ll discuss the kinds of problems orthodontists often treat while a child still has baby teeth, the benefits of early intervention, and what orthodontic treatment for kids looks like.
Your Child’s First Orthodontic Visit
It may take you by surprise when your dentist recommends an orthodontist visit for your child who still has baby teeth, but it’s wise to follow that recommendation. The earlier that problems are identified, the better they can be addressed and corrected.
The orthodontist may recommend treating the following problems even while a child still has some baby teeth:
- Very crowded teeth.
- Underbites – when the lower front teeth protrude further than the upper front teeth.
- Crossbites – when the jaw shifts to one side.
- Extra or missing teeth.
- Excessively spaced teeth.
- Teeth that don’t meet at all or meet out of alignment.
- Thumbsucking or use of a pacifier that affects the teeth or jaw growth.
Some of these problems are genetic. Others result from accidents, disease, or abnormal swallowing.
After the initial orthodontic visit, there will generally be one of three results:
- No treatment is necessary.
- Treatment may be needed later, as the bones in the face and jaws continue to grow.
- A problem is identified that calls for early treatment.
If treatment is indicated, it can stop a developing problem and correct its cause, guide facial and jaw bones to develop properly, and leave space for permanent teeth to come in properly. Let’s dive more into the benefits of early orthodontic treatment.
6 Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment:
Orthodontic treatment for very young children is called interceptive treatment. The use of appliances can begin correcting the problem so that the permanent teeth have space to come in correctly as well as correcting deficiencies with the jaw.
There are many reasons to begin this interceptive treatment with young children, including:
Preventing Premature Loss of Teeth
This is accomplished by using special orthodontic appliances that begin the straightening process early enough so permanent teeth come in correctly. If baby teeth fall out too soon, the space left for the permanent teeth becomes too small as the surrounding teeth crowd into the open spots. The result is crooked permanent teeth from the very beginning.
Correcting Bite Problems
If the jaws or teeth don’t close properly because of bite problems, multiple additional problems can occur. The permanent teeth can grow in crooked and headaches, jaw pain, and facial pain can develop. This then causes the child to be in pain and discomfort all the time. And since it’s easier to treat this issue when a child’s bones are still developing, early orthodontic treatment will save a great deal of time and money later (more on this below).
Helping Prevent Dental Trauma
Interceptive treatment with very young patients can eliminate traumatic treatment later. Straightening permanent teeth as they erupt prevents those teeth from sticking out, thus less likely to be damaged from physical contact or falling down.
Helping Keep Teeth Clean And Healthy
Teaching children how to brush properly and effectively is hard enough as it is sometimes. Cleaning teeth that are crooked or crowded is more difficult because there are areas that become even harder to reach for them as they learn. If they don’t brush well, bacteria remain on the teeth and plaque builds up. This leads to decay and gum disease and the cycle continues.
Helping Reduce or Correct Speech Problems
Our speech is affected by our teeth. The teeth need to be aligned properly and the bite must be correct so your child learns to speak clearly and properly, with no lisp or other impediments. So, early orthodontic treatment helps ensure that your child can speak properly.
Saving Time and Money
Why wait until a child’s permanent teeth have all come in before you address their dental problems? The problems only get worse which translates to more time and money to fix. Aside from those factors, your child’s teeth will be unsightly and they are sometimes painful. None of that is good for developing children who are self-confident and speak with assurance.
Solving Early Orthodontic Problems in Young Children
Aside from the benefits of early treatment, a parent’s natural question may also be how these problems are addressed.
For severe crossbites, a palatal expander is often used. This device gradually widens the upper jaw, a treatment made easier because a child’s mouth hasn’t finished its growth. This widening gives all the permanent teeth the room they need in the mouth.
Another condition helped by early treatment is severe crowding of the teeth. If a child’s jaw is too small to fit all the permanent teeth, a palatal expander may be used or some of the baby teeth may be removed so the adult teeth can come in properly.
As mentioned above, protruding teeth are easily chipped or broken, especially if they are in the front of the mouth. Plus, the child may become self-conscious about protruding teeth, which can affect their performance at school and elsewhere. There is also what is known as a severe underbite, which is caused by a larger lower jaw and results in a variety of bite problems. In the case of both protruding teeth and underbites, braces or headgear are often used.
Depending on the specific problem, there are a variety of effective treatment plans and orthodontics appliances that can be used to more easily treat orthodontic issues at an early age.
Get Your Child Started on the Path to a Beautiful Smile with Early Orthodontic Treatment
Parents are often confused when early orthodontic treatment is recommended, especially if the child still only has baby teeth. But, as you can see above, there are some significant benefits of early intervention and effective treatments that can be utilized to correct issues as early as possible.
If you think your child may need early orthodontic treatment or it has been recommended by their dentist, our team at White Plain Orthodontics can help. As the trusted local provider of orthodontic treatment in White Plains, NY, we can meet all of your child’s orthodontic needs.
Contact us today to set an appointment and discuss how early orthodontic treatment can help your child.