For Children Ages 7 and Up
Early orthodontic treatment is a special kind of orthodontic care that is performed on young patients. The youngest this treatment typically starts is at approximately seven years old. During this period of the patient’s life, orthodontic care is rarely administered, but an early evaluation by an orthodontist provides the opportunity to assess if treatment will be necessary in the future. For many orthodontic conditions, problem areas can be observed early in life.
The jaw is an area of the body that continues to change as people age. During a person’s formative years the jaw is more malleable, and as a result, an orthodontist can intervene in the growth process to correct features of the patient’s jaw and bit which are likely to create problems in the future. An orthodontist is able to examine a young patient’s jaw and teeth, anticipate future complications, and begin preemptive and preventative treatment to address these issue. Modern orthodontics is generally able to resolve most orthodontic problems at any age, but early orthodontic treatment is highly recommended because in many cases, that which may require intensive orthodontic treatment later in life can often be resolved with more delicate methods in younger patients.
We recommend that every child be evaluated for early orthodontic treatment. The best case scenario is that the child will not need orthodontic care. However, having treated thousands of patients successfully, the reality is that a significant ratio of children will benefit from some form of orthodontic care. That being said, if you’ve observed any of the following characteristics in your child’s mouth, bite, teeth, or jaw, we highly recommend an orthodontic evaluation:
-Difficulty chewing. Problems chewing simple foods or taking even small to medium sized bites of foods is often an indicator of an orthodontic complication. -Difficult enunciating and pronouncing certain words. This can be misleading, because children are naturally still learning to master their language and communication. If your child appears to be challenged with certain features of language that you’d have expected them to master already, an orthodontic condition could be a contributing factor. -Crowded teeth are often the most easily identifiable indicator that orthodontic treatment will be necessary. We recommend being evaluated between the ages of seven and ten when possible.
Being evaluated now doesn’t necessarily mean braces are going to be recommended immediately. Orthodontic treatment is a delicate and complex science, and an early orthodontic evaluation determines if treatment is necessary, and when the best time to begin treatment is. Ideally, the best time to begin treatment is at some point in the future. This allows teeth straightening using braces to begin at the optimal time. Cases in which braces should have been started at some earlier point in time may take longer to treat, especially for more acute examples of orthodontic complications. Starting treatment at the right time also helps to achieve the most effective long term results, and allows families to plan for orthodontic care in advance.