Timing is everything – even when it comes to your child’s orthodontic treatment.
“Early” treatment, also called “interceptive” treatment, simply means treatment that is performed while some baby teeth are still present.
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that your child’s first check-up with an orthodontist be around age seven.
Why age seven?
By then, your child has enough permanent teeth for an orthodontist to evaluate the developing teeth and the jaws.
As orthodontists, we are trained to spot subtle problems even in young children that your pediatric or family dentist may not.
Even if treatment doesn’t begin at age seven, which is often the case, early orthodontic evaluations provide a wealth of information into the alignment of a child’s jaw, and gives us, the orthodontist, the ability to evaluate your child’s development.
There are generally three outcomes of an initial check-up.
(1) No treatment is expected to be necessary.
(2) Treatment may be needed in the future, so the child will be followed periodically while the face and jaws continue to grow.
(3) There is a problem that lends itself to early treatment.
Early treatment can be in a patient’s best interests if their problem is one that could become more serious over time if left untreated.
The goal of early treatment is to intercept the developing problem, eliminate the cause, and provide adequate space for incoming permanent teeth.
The kinds of problems where we may recommend treating while a child still has some baby teeth include:
- Underbites – when the lower front teeth are ahead of the upper front teeth;
- Crossbites – when the jaw shifts to one side;
- Very crowded teeth;
- Excessively spaced teeth;
- Extra or missing teeth;
- Thumb, finger, or pacifier sucking that is affecting the teeth or jaw growth.
They key take away is some orthodontic problems may be easier to correct if they are found and treated early. Waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction of some problems more difficult.
PHOTO CAP: Dr. Cogan and his patient showing off her beautiful smile full of new braces