Orthodontic treatment is primarily used to prevent and correct “bite” irregularities. Several factors may contribute to such irregularities, including genetic factors, the early loss of baby teeth, and damaging oral habits such as thumb sucking and developmental problems.
Orthodontic irregularities may be present at birth or develop during toddlerhood or early childhood. Crooked teeth hamper self-esteem and make good oral homecare difficult, whereas straight teeth help minimize the risk of tooth decay and childhood periodontal disease.
Why does early orthodontic treatment make sense?
Some children display early signs of minor orthodontic irregularities. In such cases, your pediatric dentist might choose to monitor the situation over time without providing any intervention. However, for children who display severe orthodontic irregularities, early orthodontic treatment can provide many benefits, including:
- Enhanced self-confidence and aesthetic appearance.
- Increased likelihood of properly aligned and spaced adult teeth.
- Increased likelihood of proper jaw growth.
- Reduced risk of impacted adult teeth.
- Reduced risk of protracted orthodontic treatments in later years.
- Reduced risk of tooth, gum, and jawbone injury.
- Reduced risk of childhood cavities, periodontal disease, and tooth decay.
- Reduced risk of speech problems.
- Reduced risk of bruxing (grinding of teeth).
When can my child begin early orthodontic treatment?
Pediatric dentists recognize three age-related stages of orthodontic treatment. These stages are described in detail below.
Stage 1: Early treatment (2-6 years old)
Early orthodontic treatment aims to guide and regulate the width of both dental arches. The main goal of early treatment is to provide enough space for the permanent teeth to erupt correctly. Good candidates for early treatment include: children who have difficulty biting properly, children who lose baby teeth early, children whose jaws click or grind during movement, bruxers, and children who use the mouth (as opposed to the nose AND mouth) to breathe.
Stage 2: Middle dentition (6-12 years old)
The goals of middle dentition treatments are to realign wayward jaws, to start to correct crossbites, and to begin the process of gently straightening misaligned permanent teeth. Middle dentition marks a developmental period when the soft and hard tissues are extremely pliable. In some ways therefore, it marks an optimal time to begin to correct a severe malocclusion.
Stage 3: Adolescent dentition (13+ years old)
Adolescent dentition is what springs to most parents’ minds when they think of orthodontic treatment. Some of the main goals of adolescent dentition include straightening the permanent teeth and improving the aesthetic appearance of the smile.