Everyone wants their children to be healthy and feel good about themselves. One of your child’s most visible attributes is his smile. The fact is that few of us inherit a perfect mouth of teeth or a perfect bite. That’s why orthodontics can make a big difference in your child’s oral health and self-esteem. The question many parents have, however, is how early to begin. Although every case is a little different, the American Academy of Orthodontists recommends bringing your children in when they turn 7. Beginning orthodontic treatment this early will help ensure a positive outcome.
Most 7-year-olds are beginning to get their permanent teeth and orthodontists can see how their bite is shaping up. The orthodontist will do an initial evaluation with X-rays and photos to create a snapshot of how the teeth are at this age and then make a plan to address issues likely to come up as your child develops.
Because children’s jaws are still growing and teeth still developing, the orthodontist can often intervene and help stop or prevent crowding and other issues. The orthodontist may help the adult teeth erupt through the gum into a better position than they would on their own. Some use a device to help expand the upper dental arch so it can better accommodate the adult teeth; this can reduce the need to pull teeth. Early treatment doesn’t usually completely eliminate the need for braces later, but it can make that phase of treatment easier and cheaper.
Early orthodontics cannot only create space for teeth that haven’t come in yet, but take care of conditions specific to the individual, such as reducing the chance of chipping protruding front teeth or helping a child with apnea to breathe easier.
Taking care of these issues early also helps your children take proper care of their teeth. Crowded or crooked teeth are more difficult to brush and floss.
Most children who get braces do so between the ages of 9 and 14. Braces, a set of wires, brackets and bands, correct the bite and nudge the jaw into the correct position. Most patients wear them for one to three years and then wear a retainer to maintain the correction. Today’s braces are much more comfortable than those of a generation ago, so most children handle them well. Any discomfort after a visit can usually be treated with over-the-counter painkillers. Many orthodontists cater to children by offering bands and wires in a variety of colors.
Taking your children to the orthodontist when they are still in elementary school is a good way to determine their bite and jaw alignment and to create a treatment plan for the next few years of their growth. Early intervention allows the orthodontist to tackle small issues before they become big ones and opens up more preventative possibilities. Early orthodontics helps ensure the final results will not only give your children a nice smile but will boost their confidence.