When the teeth and jaw are still developing, it presents an opportunity to evaluate children for dental issues. For many children, early orthodontic treatment could be beneficial.
Permanent teeth normally come through between ages 6 and 7, and it is recommended children should have an orthodontic screening during this time. As their bones are still growing certain orthodontic issues like crowding are easier to address, resulting in a shorter and less intense duration of wearing corrective braces later.
Early treatment of orthodontic conditions
Modern orthodontic intervention procedures can help permanent teeth come through in the correct position. Often a child’s dental arch may be too small to accommodate all the permanent teeth as they come through. Previously extraction was the solution to creating space, but when the teeth and jaw are still developing it is possible to intervene.
In the case of a small dental arch, an instrument called a palatal expander can be used to help increase the size of the dental arch and remove some of the crowding issues. Such early intervention can also be used if the dental arch, or the jaw, is not in the correct position. Further treatment will usually be needed later, but this should be for a shorter duration than otherwise would have been the case.
Early intervention with a further period of corrective treatment at a later point is termed two-phase treatment. The second phase may involve wearing braces, a much more common occurrence among children today.
The increased use of braces makes them feel more socially acceptable, but modern braces are also less visible when worn. The braces can still take some getting used to. And food annoyingly gets trapped between the brackets and wires. However, the lighter, more flexible wires make the braces a little more comfortable. Any discomfort can usually be addressed with over-the-counter pain relief.
Also, children now get to pick their preferred colour for the elastic on the wires, which makes the braces much more fun to wear.
Early orthodontic intervention can benefit children with overcrowded teeth as well as protruding front teeth or a crossbite. While not all oral conditions are suited for such early treatment, having your child evaluated while their teeth and jaw are still growing is a very good idea. It means certain conditions could be easier to address.
While further corrective treatment will probably be required, the early intervention should mean this will be shorter in duration and a simpler process.
Focus on the positive
You can help your young child adjust to the idea of braces. Focus on the result, the great smile they will have. With so many children wearing braces today, it’s very common and socially accepted. If the braces are in the child’s favourite colour, so much the better! Your child will grow up with confidence, which is the best way to start life.
BDS (Lon), DPDS (Bris), D Imp Dent RCSEd, DwSi
Born in 1974 in Brentwood, Essex, Daniel ‘always wanted to be a dentist’ and proudly qualified from The Royal London Hospital in 1997. He has worked at Gallions Reach since 2001. His hobbies include running marathons and recently (unsuccessfully) attempting to swim the English Channel. A season ticket holder at Upton Park, Daniel keenly follows the ups and (mainly) downs of West Ham United!