Many parents wonder when they should consider bringing their kids to see an orthodontist. Our Toronto dentists provide insight and advice about what signs to watch for and how early orthodontic treatment can benefit children's health.
When should kids begin orthodontic treatment?
Sometimes, concerned parents may seek advice about when they should bring their kids to see an orthodontist. This may be because they anticipate orthodontic issues coming up for their children as a result of hereditary factors, or because they are currently seeing symptoms that concern them.
Our answer is that every child is unique in terms of development, age, treatment needs and other factors. The ideal time for kids to start orthodontic treatment will depend on the specific orthodontic issue (example: misalignment of teeth and bite) and its severity.
Until recently, orthodontists wouldn’t typically treat children until they reached their adolescent years - 12 to 14 years old, once permanent teeth had erupted. This strategy often meant extractions were required to leave space for other teeth to shift as they needed to during treatment.
Today, the approach has changed and orthodontists have started to use interceptive orthodontics to begin treating children anywhere from 7 to 11 years old. This way, we can correct orthodontic issues before they fully develop, keep more of your child’s permanent teeth, and have a positive early impact on their oral health.
With interceptive orthodontics for children, orthodontic appliances (not strictly braces) can be used while a child still has his or her baby teeth. Once the child’s adult teeth erupt, a second phase can begin.
Early signs of orthodontic issues
With interceptive orthodontic treatment, misalignment issues can be treated before they develop into larger problems. This can also benefit children’s health. Treatable issues include:
- Overly crowded teeth (one or both jaws would need to be expanded)
- Early removal of specific baby teeth to encourage permanent teeth to emerge correctly
- Maintaining space for permanent teeth to come in after premature loss of baby tooth
- Misaligned teeth
- Extreme tongue thrust habits
- Protrusion of front teeth
Advantages of early intervention
Early interceptive orthodontic treatment may have any of the following benefits:
- Crowded teeth have room to emerge
- Risk of trauma as a result of protruding front teeth is reduced
- Decreasing need for tooth extraction
- Reducing treatment length
- Reduced need for more extensive treatment later in life
Your dentist can examine your child’s teeth to find out whether your child is a candidate for interceptive orthodontics. Depending on the nature and severity of the case, they may refer your family to an orthodontist, or undertake the treatment themselves. Treatment options will depend on your child’s needs and may include braces, a retainer, an appliance, or some combination of these.
If your child can benefit from an orthodontic intervention, your dentist will explain how treatment can positively impact your child’s development, then explain treatment options and answer any questions you may have.