Parents are often very confused when their family dentist refers their child to our office at a young age (ages 6-10). They know that their child still has lots of baby teeth and are expecting us to recommend braces. They are concerned that it is too early for braces and that it may be a waste of time and money. While it is true that we rarely recommend braces at this age, it is very important to get an early orthodontic evaluation.
Many orthodontic problems are caused by growth related issues such as narrow jaws or one jaw growing too fast or too slow. These types of problems are best treated during the younger years before all the permanent teeth come in. While not all orthodontic problems can be fixed at this age, the severity of many problems can be reduced and the self-esteem of the young patient improved dramatically with the use of some type of simple growth modification device like an expander, habit appliance (to stop thumb or finger sucking) or functional appliance (to reduce an over-bite or improve an under-bite).
Teeth that erupt into the wrong place may never look as good even if their position is corrected later with braces. The incidence of extracting healthy permanent and baby teeth can be dramatically reduced by early treatment. Most importantly is the improvement in self-esteem that a child can receive from a healthy attractive smile before going to junior high school.
In addition to the cosmetic advantages, if the upper jaw is too narrow, all the top permanent teeth will erupt in the wrong places. When the upper teeth come in on the inside of the bottom teeth it is called a cross-bite. This can actually cause a child’s lower jaw to shift to the side resulting in a crooked face and poor jaw joint function.
A small overbite is usually not an indicator for early treatment, but moderate to severe conditions can cause social problems for young patients and make them more susceptible to dental injuries because the teeth stick out. Although overbites cannot be totally eliminated until a child has finished growing, it is advisable to reduce their severity for reasons of safety and self-esteem.
During the past 25 years, we have been able to reduce the necessity of extracting healthy permanent teeth by 95% when we get an opportunity to see the child early. In addition, many of the children treated during Phase 1 can often be finished with Invisalign Teen® instead of braces. Don’t take our word for it, ask Aiden’s mom.