The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child first sees an orthodontic as early as seven years of age. This is a critical age because it coincides with the eruption of the first adult teeth, specially the incisors. An orthodontic evaluation is essential during that critical period to ensure proper eruption of the adult teeth and to detect early problems. In most instances, no treatment is needed and simple monitoring of the eruption will suffice.
There are instances however when treatment may be needed at that early age. Cross-bites, or narrow jaws, underbites, severe crowding, impacted teeth or teeth that are stuck under the gums, missing teeth and major jaw anomalies are some of the reasons why orthodontic treatment may be indicated early on. Another indication for early treatment is when a child has harmful habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrust. If these problems or habits are not corrected early on they will likely lead to more severe problems later on in life, problems that may become so severe that extractions of permanent teeth or even surgery will be required to fully correct.
Correction of early orthodontic problems often requires appliances such as expanders, headgears, or habit breaking devices. Limited braces may also be used depending on the child’s age and the severity of the problem. Treatment of children at this age is called “Phase I Orthodontics” and usually lasts no more than 12-18 months. Again, the goal is to correct one or more major orthodontic problem, create the proper space for eruption of the permanent teeth and correct any harmful habits. Phase I is followed by retainers and often a second phase of braces, or “phase II”, is needed once all the baby teeth have fallen and a full set of adult teeth are present.
I often hear many “excuses” from parents for delaying treatment. Finance is of course a major concern. However, parents have to understand that delaying treatment may lead to worsening of the initial problem which will ultimately result in more fees and more importantly, increase the length and difficulty of the orthodontic treatment in the long run, something the child may not be too fond of.
A Happy and Safe 4th of July to all!
Dr. Reza Salmassian is a Board Certified Orthodontist. For any questions regarding this article or to schedule your complimentary orthodontic consultation please call 661-222-7444