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Orthodontics for the young

While treatment can be done at any age, there is usually a best age to begin treatment in order to achieve maximum improvement with the minimum amount of time and expense. When should parents bring their children to see an orthodontist?

Most authorities recommend that the child’s first visit to the orthodontist should be between 7 to 8 years of age. Early examination allows the orthodontist to detect and evaluate any problems in dental development and jaw growth and plan appropriate treatment. In most cases, treatment need not be necessary until a few years later. However, early interceptive treatment may be initiated in some cases to prevent more serious problems from developing and make treatment at a later age easier.

Quite often, because of the undetected developing malocclusion, parents are filled with guilt for not bringing their children for an orthodontic consultation at an earlier age. In fact, some parents have been improperly advised that it is not necessary to seek orthodontic opinions for their children until all the permanent teeth have erupted.

Signs that your child may need to see an orthodontist are

  • reverse bite (all the lower front teeth biting in front of the upper front teeth);
  • cross-bite (one or more lower teeth in reverse bite);
  • deep bite (upper teeth overlapping the lower teeth completely);
  • protruding front teeth;
  • crowded teeth;
  • un-erupted or missing teeth (especially if teeth from only one side are missing);
  • thumb or finger sucking past age 5 to 6;
  • early loss of baby teeth.

Interceptive treatment may involve

  • habit correction e.g. to break thumb sucking habit;
  • jaw growth modification to encourage growth of small jaws or hold back excessive growth;
  • jaw expansion for narrow upper jaw due mainly to mouth breathing habit;
  • simple fixed or removable braces for a short period of treatment to correct cross-bite, crowded teeth, deep bite and reduce possibility of trauma to protruding teeth;
  • guidance of tooth eruption, to regain space and maintain space for erupting teeth.
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