Early Intervention Orthodontics: What Is It and How Can It Help My Child?
Have you ever noticed how many kids have braces? Orthodontists and pediatric dentists estimate that 45% of kids require braces to help correct a misaligned bite. And, nearly 75% of kids could use braces to help straighten their teeth and improve their facial shape. But how do parents know if their kids need braces, and when is the right time for them to get orthodontic treatment? The answer lies in early intervention orthodontics.
What is early intervention orthodontics?
As most parents know, kids should start visiting the dentist shortly after their first tooth pops through the gum or around their first birthday, whichever comes first. Then, children should visit the dentist every six months to protect their smiles and lessen their risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease. However, around the age of seven, dentists and orthodontists recommend that kids have an examination referred to as an early orthodontic evaluation.
During an early orthodontic evaluation, your child’s pediatric dentist will look for deep bites, underbites, overbites, crossbites, overcrowding, extra teeth, and buck teeth. The benefits of looking for these early include being able to:
- Correct poor at-home oral hygiene habits.
- Guide jaw growth.
- Assist permanent teeth in moving into a more favorable position.
- Lessen the risk of trauma related to protruded front teeth.
- Improve how the lips come together.
In most cases, one of three outcomes will happen:
- No treatment is necessary.
- Treatment may be necessary down the road as the child continues to grow.
- We may recommend early treatment.
What type of treatment might be recommended for early intervention orthodontics?
If your child’s pediatric dentist or orthodontist recommends treatment, they often recommend either a palatal expander, crossbite appliance, or space maintainer.
A palatal expander is recommended for kids and adolescents as their bones are still growing. They may have a narrow, high palate that can cause orthodontic issues. Expanders are specifically beneficial to help with the following conditions:
- Not enough room for adult teeth currently popping through the gum line.
- Insufficient space for adult teeth still developing that may require extraction in the future.
- A front crossbite with a narrow upper arch.
- A back crossbite with a narrow upper arch.
Palatal expanders may be used before braces treatment, and in some cases, might be the only orthodontic intervention required.
Crossbites are very common orthodontic problems in growing children. A child’s crossbite can cause issues in the skeletal, dental, or functional components of the orthognathic system. If your child has a crossbite, their dentist may recommend a space maintainer, expander, or other crossbite appliance, depending on their specific needs.
Though a child losing their baby tooth prematurely might not seem like it has anything to do with orthodontics, the truth is that when a tooth comes out before it’s time, it can cause adjacent teeth to shift. This can then lead to crooked or crowded teeth. The most common recommendation from dentists in this situation is a space maintainer, which simply holds the space where the baby tooth was in anticipation of the adult tooth emerging.
What happens if my child does not receive the recommended orthodontic treatment?
We do get asked from time to time about whether or not orthodontic treatment is truly necessary. And our answer is always consistent: a straight smile and correct bite have not only physical benefits but emotional ones as well. If your child has a crooked or misshapen smile, it can impact their willingness and desire to smile. Smiling is important for our overall health, because when we smile, our brains release neuropeptides that help fight off stress. Then, chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins are released to help mitigate pain and make you feel happier.
Aside from the emotional effects, crooked teeth increase your child’s risk for tooth decay or gum disease. Crooked teeth create the perfect environment for bacteria to build up, and it can be harder to remove them with brushing and flossing. So, not getting braces or orthodontics treatment can lead to more complicated dental or orthodontic issues in the future. And as these issues fester, they can become more difficult and costly to correct.
If your child is due for their early intervention visit for orthodontics, Must Love Kids Pediatric Dentistry can help.
Dr. Mo is a pediatric dentist who practices orthodontics, and she is well-versed in conducting early orthodontic interventions to check on the oral health of her patients. And at Must Love Kids, our family-friendly, caring team takes a gentle approach to orthodontics for young children. We’re confident that we offer the best dentistry for children in the surrounding area and we’re convinced that, after your first visit to our dental office, you’ll agree.
So if your child is seven, now is the time to request an appointment for their early intervention. Don’t delay; request their appointment today.