Early Orthodontic Treatment for Prevention

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

Did you know that The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children receive an orthodontic screening by age of seven? This is the age that the permanent teeth begin growing into the child’s mouth and it’s an ideal time to determine if early orthodontic treatment is necessary.

Early treatment is also known as interceptive orthodontics and typically occurs between the ages of seven and ten. This interceptive care takes advantage of a child’s growth to provide sufficient room for the alignment of the adult teeth. It helps set the stage for later treatment which becomes less complicated and often requires less time to accomplish.

There are many reasons for early orthodontic treatment. The most common are protruding teeth, crossbites, harmful oral habits, jaw discrepancies, crowded teeth and self-consciousness due to dental appearance.

Protruding front teeth are buck teeth. Children with this condition are at a greater risk of trauma especially if they are very active. It is very common to see chips, fractures and broken teeth in this population.

A child with a crossbite has upper teeth that come together on the inside of the lower teeth. This can lead to asymmetric and or improper growth of the skeletal and facial structures. It is treated with relative ease in young patients with immature bone structures and gets proportionally more difficult to treat with age.

Harmful oral habits include thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. Habits like these, which continue past age seven, can permanently influence the position of the adult teeth, causing them to erupt improperly.

Jaw discrepancies cause the upper or lower jaw to be positioned too far forward or back. In later years, it requires surgery to treat. When treated earlier with growth modification appliances, the jaws can be guided into a more balanced relationship.

Mild crowding of teeth is considered a normal stage of development during the transition into adult teeth. However, more profound crowding can lead to inadequate room. Early intervention aimed at arch development can guide the permanent teeth into a more favorable relationship.

Kids with low self-esteem related to dental appearance often show great improvement with orthodontic treatment.

Early orthodontic therapy involves only the permanent teeth that are present and modalities used include palatal expanders, removable appliances and conventional fixed braces. Treatment time can range from six to twenty months and costs are usually one-half to two-thirds the cost of comprehensive ortho treatment.

Interceptive treatment gives the orthodontist an opportunity to improve the patient’s dental development. While most patients will require additional treatment after all the permanent teeth have come in, the treatment is usually less complex, more stable and of shorter duration than if early treatment had not occurred. And many times the need for more invasive treatment such as tooth removal or jaw surgery is eliminated.

Ask your dentist if he or she thinks your child is a candidate for early treatment. Your dentist will be able to provide you with the name of an orthodontist in the area. Another valuable resource is www.braces.org, a site sponsored by the American Association of Orthodontists which contains information about braces and a directory of orthodontists.

This article was written with the help of Seth Newman, D.D.S., a board certified orthodontist practicing in Roslyn Heights. He can be reached at 516-626-2060; www.NewmansOrtho.com.

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