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Why Should My Child Need Early Orthodontic Treatment?

Aug 17, 2007
Much debate lives among orthodontic professionals between early orthodontic treatment (ages 7 to 9) and traditional orthodontic intervention (11+ years old). The American Association of Orthodontists endorses that all youngsters should be evaluated by a dentist or orthodontist at the age of seven.

The early phase (Phase 1) begins around age 8 or 9. This phase involves straightening the front permanent teeth and creating space for the remaining permanent teeth that erupt at age 12. This reduces the future likelihood of extracting permanent teeth. In addition, if there is a jaw-growth problem, or bite problem such as overbite or underbite, correction is also done during Phase 1.

Your child may need to be assessed even earlier than seven years old if your family dentist recommends an orthodontic evaluation. Thumb sucking, pacifier, tongue thrust and mouth-breathing are habits that may also need early intervention. Early orthodontic treatment may be needed to aid in speech therapy.

The following early signs may be helpful to detect orthodontic problems in your child:

* Look at your child's teeth. If you see crooked teeth, gaps between the teeth or overlapped teeth, your child may need orthodontic treatment.

* Ask your child to bite all the way down, keeping their lips open. Do the front top teeth line up with the bottom? Do the top teeth protrude out away from the bottom teeth? Do the top front teeth cover more than 50% of the bottom teeth? Are the top teeth behind the bottom teeth? If you see any of these conditions an orthodontist should evaluate your child.

* Look at the alignment of your child's jaw. Does the jaw shift off center when your child bites down? If you see any malalignment or shifting of the jaw, your child may have a skeletal problem.

Other common signs include:

* Early or late loss of primary teeth
* Difficulty in chewing or biting
* Mouth breathing
* Finger or thumb sucking habits beyond age 5
* Speech difficulty
* Biting the cheek or roof of the mouth
* Protruding teeth
* Teeth that don't meet in a normal matter, or don't meet at all

Note: These are only some of the more obvious signs. Other signs may be much more subtle and require a trained professional to detect.

Some important facts supported by the orthodontic literature about jaw growth are:

* Dental arch (width) increases an average of 3mm from 5 to 10 years old.
* After 10 years old the width of the dental arch does not increase, although, it tends to decrease.
* Expansion of the dental arches is not always possible after the ages of 13 in girls and 15 in boys.
* Expansion at an early age is a reliable and stable procedure. Expansion also decreases the possibility of teeth becoming impacted during their eruptive phase.
* Serial extraction of baby teeth is not recommended since it only provides a temporary solution to the lack of space.

Our office believes in early intervention in cases where there may be concerns of abnormal jaw development, posterior and anterior crossbites, large overbite, insuficient space in dental arches or congenitally missing teeth. Interceptive orthodontic therapy promotes orthopedic development of the jaws. This may remove, or decrease, the need for extractions, lengthy orthodontic treatment or jaw surgery at a later time.

Bullying is endemic among schoolchildren, and the effects can be devastating and long lasting. The persistently bullied kid shows a definite psychological type, with poorly developed social skills and a submissive nature. Physical appearance acts a major role in bullying. Teasing related to dental appearance is hurtful. Fortunately, there is evidence of a marked increase in self-confidence following early orthodontic treatment in youngsters.
About the Author
For more information, contact Dr. Nguyen at drnguyen@softdental.com or visit www.softdental.com.
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