In orthodontics, it’s never too late for adults to start treatment. An experienced orthodontist can treat any problem at any age. But when it comes to children, there are definite advantages to starting earlier rather than later for some dental issues. These include a bite problem, crowded teeth, late thumb sucking, protruded teeth, issues with eating or speech and impacted adult teeth.
Sometimes early treatment negates the need for further treatment, but most of the time the first phase improves or prevents severe problems and ensures a better outcome for the patient. Early treatment is strongly recommended in cases where the orthodontist needs to use the child’s growing jaws to help widen them.
Common Orthodontic Problems Treated Early
The following dental problems are often treated in the first phase of orthodontic treatment.
An incorrect bite problem can be in the form of the:
Upper and lower front teeth not meeting properly at the front or at the back (crossbite)
Upper and lower front teeth not closing at the front or back (open bite)
Upper front teeth close so far over the lower ones (deep overbite)
Early treatment can improve growth direction and reduce the severity of a problem.
Crowded & Misplaced Teeth
When a mouth is overcrowded with baby and adult teeth, there is a risk that unerupted adult teeth will be damaged or come through in the wrong place. The main reason for overcrowding is a jaw that is not big enough. Expanding the size of a child’s jaw is much easier before the bones harden and stop growing in the later teenage years. The only way to change the size of a jaw later in life is surgery and may not be as effective as orthodontic treatment in childhood.
Late (after the age of 5) Thumb Sucking
A toddler that sucks their thumb can only damage their baby teeth, but if the habit continues past the early years, they can do significant damage to their permanent teeth. A thumb or finger regularly resting on a gum can cause an issue with teeth erupting and possible growth of the jaw problems. Front teeth can be pushed out and bottom teeth in by the offending thumb or finger causing significant bite problems.
If your child has prominent protruding front teeth, they may be self-conscious of their look. Protruding teeth are also at risk of breaking or dying following a simple childhood accident. A plate can be used to reduce the protrusion so their teeth are in a safer position and restore some of their self-esteem so they don’t need to wait years before braces can be fitted.
Problems with Speech or Eating
A child with a speech impediment or eating difficulties can be the result of teeth or jaw problems. Early treatment can correct the position of teeth enough that these problems are improved or fixed. Both issues can be more difficult to treat later in life.
Impacted Adult Teeth
If adult teeth are unable to erupt due to overcrowding, they can be damaged or never erupt. Being able to expand the size of the jaw while the child’s soft bones are still growing gives them a better long-term outcome.
What are the Phases of Orthodontic Treatment?
Every patient’s orthodontic journey is different just as everyone’s teeth are unique. However, there are three phases of orthodontic treatment. Some patients will start with early treatment known as phase one while others will not need phase one treatment or there are no options available as their growth phase has finished.
Phases of Orthodontic Treatment
Orthodontic treatment can be divided into two main phases.
Phase One (Early Treatment)
A child usually receives early treatment when some baby teeth are still present. The treatment can prevent a problem from developing or stop a problem from developing further. If a problem is not treated at this stage, it can lead to growth and development problems for the child’s teeth, gums, jaw and face. An orthodontist has a range of treatments available depending on the issue including a plate, retainer, and arch expansion appliance.
Once early treatment finishes before phase two is ready to commence, the teeth may be left to rest. An orthodontist may schedule annual or more regular appointments to check on the progress of the erupting adult teeth and jaw development and to decide when phase two treatment can begin.
The second phase of orthodontic treatment usually doesn’t start until the permanent teeth have erupted. Braces can then be fitted to align teeth correctly, achieve a proper relationship between the teeth and jaws and position the teeth and jaws to influence the shape of the face and profile.
The Benefits of Using Multiple Phases
Many people assume that two-phase orthodontics should only be used in the most severe cases due to the extended treatment time and extra cost. However, the early stage treatment may do much of the ‘heavy lifting’ that can’t be achieved once the child is in their teens and their jaw has stopped growing. Early treatment orthodontics doesn’t eliminate the need for the second phase, but it may improve the final outcome and may shorten the length of the treatment.
It is important for the orthodontist to assess all children at an early age to see if two phase treatment is worth considering. In some cases, there is little to gain from early treatment and your orthodontist is best equipped to work out what is best for your child.
Considering Orthodontic Treatment for Your Child?
There are many advantages to starting orthodontic treatment for children at a young age. Improve your child's smile and book an appointment!
What Age is Right to Begin Orthodontics?
The orthodontic industry believes that seeing children between the ages of seven and ten for their first consultation is ideal. Children don’t need to have lost all their baby teeth and have their adult teeth erupted for an orthodontist to identify problems that would benefit from early treatment.
Early treatment can be started from the age of eight and second phase treatment can usually start from the age of 12 when all permanent teeth have usually erupted.
For more information, see the article When Should My Child Be Seen for their First Consult?
Wondering if you Child Needs Orthodontic Treatment Early?
If you are unsure if your child has an orthodontic problem that may require treatment at an early age, make a no-obligation appointment for a consultation. You can gain an expert orthodontic opinion on when and what treatment, if any, is recommended. You don’t need a referral from your child’s dentist to see an orthodontist.
For more information or to make an appointment at The Orthodontist on (08) 9364 8020 or contact us online.