Published on April 7, 2017, Updated on April 13, 2020
Did you know that the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children receive their first orthodontic evaluation by the time they are seven? The majority of children will still have most of their baby teeth at this time, but many others will already have some adult teeth. Most children will not need to have orthodontic treatment before they are seven, but only an orthodontic evaluation can make sure of that. There are many reasons a child may need to receive early orthodontic treatment such as problems with cross, deep, or open bites, crowding, missing teeth, and teeth not emerging correctly in the mouth. These are just a few reasons, as there are many. With early orthodontic evaluations, your orthodontist can assess your child’s teeth and make sure they are coming in correctly so that they’ll have an easier time with braces as an adolescent and so that early problems can be fixed. Dr. Hardy and his staff are trained to identify bite issues, predict how your child’s teeth will grow and if early orthodontic treatment is needed before adolescent orthodontic treatment. Learn the benefits of early orthodontic treatment and how Dr. Hardy can help your child’s mouth be the healthiest it can be for years to come.
When is the time to start taking care of your child’s teeth? Won’t all of their baby teeth fall out anyways? You should be taking care of your child’s teeth as soon as they have teeth in their mouth. Baby teeth will fall out when they have finished their job, but the oral issues you are looking for have to do with your child’s bite, jaw and how the adult teeth are coming into the mouth. Early orthodontic treatment for children is usually known as “phase one” treatment that occurs between 7 and 9 years old before “phase two” begins in adolescents. Dr. Hardy and his staff specialize in the oral health of infants, children, adolescents and patients with special needs. Our staff identifies any abnormalities we can find at an early age to provide preventative treatment and correction to bites and other problems. Even at the very early ages of 2 and 3 years old, we can begin to see incorrect bites forming in children. This early detection is key in correcting them.
Early Detectable Problems
- Crossbite – This could be a shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes their mouth. With a correct bite, teeth should match up, with the upper teeth resting slightly above the lower teeth when the mouth is closed. With a cross bite, some of the teeth will also be slanted towards the gum and their opposing teeth will be slanted more towards the tongue instead of straight. You basically get different angles of teeth with a crossbite, making chewing more difficult and leading to stress on the jaw muscles, causing headaches and other symptoms.
- Open Bite – Thumb-sucking is a big culprit when it comes to an open bite. Tongue thrusting and chewing on non-food items can cause it as well. With an open bite, the upper and lower front teeth don’t line up when the mouth is closed, resulting in a gap between the two rows of teeth. This can cause speech impediments and lisps, slanted teeth and a more crooked smile.
- Deep Bite – With a deep bite, the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth and some of your teeth make contact with the gum tissue in your mouth and upper arch. Teeth should rest together and be almost perfectly on top of each other (without touching the gums) in a correct bite.
- Jaw Problems – If the jaw is misaligned, it is critical to correct it early, as the jaw bones will harden and stop growing around age 13, which is when many adolescents have braces. That is why correcting the jaw early is the best thing you can do for your child, as surgery is usually needed to break and realign the jaw into the correct position as an adolescent or adult. As a child, it is much easier to correct without the surgery.
- Crowding – Sometimes the arch of the mouth is too narrow to fit all of the teeth. This may cause teeth to come in crooked or turn, which will reduce their strength and structure (and can make them harder to clean). We also see a problem with large gaps between teeth in children, but both crowding and gaps can be corrected with orthodontic treatment.
- Missing Teeth – Sometimes a child will lose a baby tooth, but an adult tooth does not grow in its place. This is usually an inherited trait and usually needs to be corrected with a dental implant so that proper tooth and jaw functioning is not disrupted.
- Teeth Emerging Incorrectly – By age 7, all of the front teeth (incisors) and permanent first molars should be erupted in the mouth. If there isn’t enough space in the mouth, teeth might become impacted, causing structural problems all over the mouth. Teeth may come in crooked or impacted teeth may cause straight teeth to turn crooked. With early orthodontic care, we can find impacted teeth and help structure the mouth so all the teeth fit and no permanent problems occur later in life.
- Thumb Sucking – Thumb sucking should end at least by age 5 when your child first starts to lose their baby teeth. Thumb sucking after this age could abnormally shift the adult teeth out of line and cause an open bite. There are orthodontic appliances for thumb-sucking (such as a little appliance placed behind the front teeth) that is sure to end thumb sucking so teeth come in correctly.
- Speech Impediments – This could be a sign that one or more teeth are misaligned, causing the issue. Schedule an appointment with the orthodontist to check all the teeth for alignment and bite issues.
What Early Orthodontics Can Do For You
At our office, we strive to prevent the progression of orthodontic issues before they become severe in adolescence. That is why we have phase one early orthodontics for children who need it. Early orthodontic care can:
- Detect hidden dental problems (especially in the back of the mouth where it’s harder to see).
- Monitor the progress of incoming adult teeth.
- Monitor the progress of facial and jaw development, which is critical to reducing the need for jaw surgery in adolescence.
- Guide incoming teeth into the correct position in the mouth before teeth mature.
- Reduce the risk of tooth extractions.
- Reduce the risk of impacted teeth.
- Reduce the time your child will need braces as an adolescent.
- Correct bite and jaw problems before they become severe in adolescence.
Call for an Early Orthodontics Consultation
The benefits of early orthodontics are many, which is the reason that child orthodontics is sometimes necessary. Orthodontic care when young can have an impactful impression on the amount of confidence a child has with their smile, especially when they go through a shorter phase two of orthodontic treatment in adolescence. Our staff at Hardy Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics are highly trained to work with your child to produce the best dental and orthodontic results as possible. Dr. Hardy works closely with Dr. Nam, the pediatric dentist, so you really have a win-win situation with meeting all of your child’s oral health needs in one place. If we find that your child does need early orthodontic care, we strive to make their treatment easy on them (and you) and provide results you will love. Call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics today at (720) 887-6003 to schedule your appointment or to learn more about early orthodontic care.