Early Orthodontics

Overview

Orthodontic treatment in young children, known as interceptive orthodontics can begin as early as age 6 or 7. At this age, teeth are still developing and the jaw is still growing. This means certain conditions, such as crowding, may be easier to address.

It is important to note that early treatment does not apply to all orthodontic problems but it may help in certain cases. Two conditions that may benefit from early intervention are crossbites and protruding front teeth. A crossbite can cause the jaws to grow unevenly. Protruding front teeth (teeth that stick out) may be at risk of being fractured or injured in an accident, such as a fall.

Benefits

Early intervention takes advantage of the fact that a child's jaw is still growing.

Early treatment may also be useful when the dental arches and jaws are not in the correct position. Functional appliances may fix or improve these problems. Often more treatment is needed later on, but it may be shorter and less involved.

Braces and orthodontic appliances have improved a lot in the past couple of decades. Technology has made them more comfortable and more attractive than the braces most parents remember wearing.

Care

Good dental hygiene is crucial for children with braces and other dental appliances. Food gets caught in the braces, so it is important to brush thoroughly after each meal or snack. Each night before bed is the most important time to brush and floss. Your orthodontist or dentist may also recommend rinsing with a fluoride mouth rinse to help keep the teeth strong and healthy.

When you have braces, flossing can be tricky but it is an important step in keeping the teeth and gums healthy during orthodontic treatment Your orthodontist or dental practitioner will show you how to floss with braces and also give you other good oral care recommendations.

Every six months, take your child to your dental practitioner for a check-up and cleaning. The denial practitioner can point out areas that need more attention, and help make sure your child’s teeth are healthy and clean in and around the braces. Often, your dental practitioner can suggest helpful tools or ideas to keep your child's teeth healthy while the braces are on.

Procedure

Although treatment plans are customised for each patient, most wear their braces from one to three years, depending on the issues that need correcting. This is usually followed by a period of wearing a retainer which holds teeth in their new positions. Although a little discomfort is expected during treatment, today's braces are more comfortable than ever before.

A palatal expander may be used to expand the upper dental arch so there is more room for the teeth which can reduce crowding in the mouth. Palatal expander appliances usually consist of a plastic appliance an expansion screw that is worn on the upper dental arch. When the expansion screw is turned, the device gradually widens the jaw and makes more room. Once the arch is expanded, there is a better chance that the adult teeth will align into a better position.

Space maintainers are another example of an early intervention technique. When a child loses a tooth early, as a result of decay or injury, the surrounding teeth can shift to fill the empty space. As a preventive measure, a dentist can place a space maintainer to hold the space until the permanent tooth comes in. Space maintainers usually consist of a band placed around a neighbouring tooth with a metal loop that holds the space open. When the permanent tooth is ready to emerge, the dentist removes the space maintainer. This procedure may eliminate the need for further or more intensive orthodontics in the future.