The American Association of Orthodontists recommends a child first be seen by an orthodontist as early as age 7; earlier if a problem is discovered by a parent or family dentist. Many orthodontic problems are easier to correct if treated prior to the completion of growth. Early treatment may prevent the need for extraction of permanent teeth, surgery and other serious corrections later in life. Early treatment helps to make room for the permanent teeth to come in properly. However, owing to the complex nature of orthodontics, early treatment may not be right for every child. Only after a clinical examination of your child can the proper treatment plan be determined.
By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding or gummy smiles. Timely screening increases the chances for an incredible smile. Early orthodontic treatment varies between patients, but may include removable or fixed appliances that can provide more room for crowded, erupting teeth; preserve space for unerupted teeth; create facial symmetry through manipulating jaw growth; and reduce overall treatment time in braces. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.
Does your child suck his or her thumb or fingers? Sucking is a natural reflex. Infants, babies and young children use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. It makes them feel secure and happy and provides a sense of security at difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce sleep. Thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. Children should stop thumb sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop. An orthodontist can also help you and your child to create a program that will empower your child and motivate them to stop their habit.
Orthodontic treatment is not just for children! The goal of orthodontic treatment is a good bite—meaning straight teeth that mesh well with the teeth in the opposite jaw. Improving the health of your teeth and gums is equally important. Crooked teeth and a bad bite can contribute to gum and bone loss, tooth decay, abnormal wear of the tooth enamel and surfaces, headaches and jaw joint (TMJ/TMD) pain. Orthodontic treatment at later stages in life can dramatically improve your personal appearance and self-esteem. A healthy bite is as important at age 60 as it is at age 16! Advances in orthodontic techniques and appliances have made treatment more comfortable, with greatly reduced discomfort levels and a decreased frequency of visits. A variety of orthodontic appliances are available today, including traditional metal braces, tooth colored braces, braces that go behind the teeth, and clear aligners. Be sure to speak with an orthodontist about the best way to achieve your treatment goals. You will soon be on your way to improving your best asset—your smile!!