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“The official recommendation of the American Association of Orthodontists
is that the first visit to the orthodontist be around age seven.”
Orthodontics for Children
While there is no exact age for children to begin orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the first visit to the orthodontist be around age seven.
This may first come as a surprise, given that orthodontic treatment is generally associated with teens. The truth is that very few children require some form of orthodontic treatment at such a young age. However, in these children, early detection and treatment will help avoid more complicated and prolonged treatment in the future.
Early treatment (if indicated) could allow your orthodontist to:
- Correct and guide the growth of your child’s jaw to help the permanent teeth come in straight
- Regulate the width of the upper and lower arches
- Create more space for crowded teeth
- Possibly avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions later in life
- Intercept habits and help improve minor speech problems
For parents, it’s not always easy to know if your child may need orthodontic treatment.
Here are a few things to look for that may mean your child needs to see an orthodontist:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- A hard time chewing or biting food
- Mouth breathing
- Finger or thumb sucking
- Crowded, misplaced, or blocked teeth
- Jaws that pop or make sounds when opening and closing
- Teeth that come together abnormally, or do not come together at all
- Jaws and teeth that are not proportionate to the rest of the face
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
Two-phase orthodontic treatment
Sometimes, Dr. Dask will recommend performing an early (Phase I) orthodontic treatment. The goal of Phase I of orthodontic treatment is to help the jaws develop in a way that will accommodate all of the permanent teeth and improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together. Children often exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. An upper jaw that is not growing enough, or is too narrow can be recognized at an early age. If children around the age of seven or eight are found to have this jaw discrepancy, they may be candidates for early orthodontic treatment.
We do not recommend early treatment for every patient. However, when indicated, the benefits from Phase I treatment can be tremendous. Receiving early treatment may prevent the removal of permanent teeth later in life, or the need for surgical procedures to realign the jaws.
After Phase I there is usually a period of a “break”, where the growth and development of the patient are monitored as his/her remaining permanent teeth erupt. Retainers may or may not be recommended during the rest period. Periodic recall appointments for observation are usually necessary.
Phase II usually begins when all permanent teeth have erupted, and involves full (upper and lower) braces. The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. When this equilibrium is established, the teeth will function together properly. Retainers are worn after this phase to ensure you keep your beautiful smile!
Please contact our practice to schedule an appointment for an orthodontic evaluation. Early treatment now may give your child a healthy, beautiful smile for the future.
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