Children begin to lose their baby—or primary—teeth around age 6 to start making room for their permanent adult teeth, and most children lose all of their baby teeth around age 12. During this time, your child’s jaw and facial structure are also developing to make room in their mouth and jaw for more and bigger teeth. Problems can occur if there is a significant delay in losing teeth, especially if adult teeth start to come in before there is room, or if a child loses teeth too early before adult teeth are ready to erupt. This can cause crowding, over- or underbites, or crooked teeth, as well as improper jaw alignment.
If left untreated, misaligned jaws, crooked or crowded teeth, or gaps in your child’s smile affect their chewing, speech, and breathing, and can eventually lead to more serious issues, such as TMJ syndrome, headaches, and neck, shoulder or back pain. Misaligned teeth are also more difficult to clean, increasing the risk of tooth decay, cavities, or other periodontal conditions.
Orthodontic treatment uses constant, gentle pressure from a range of appliances and devices over a set period to realign the teeth and jaws for a healthy bite. A healthy bite is typically the sign of good occlusion, or alignment, of the front and back teeth.
The general recommendation is that your child has an initial consultation with an orthodontist by age 7. Very few children will actually start orthodontic treatment at this age, but this early evaluation can help identify any potential problems with teeth eruption, spacing, or alignment. Early treatment can improve the eruption of permanent teeth, either through appliances like spacers or by extracting baby teeth.
Most orthodontic treatment begins between the ages of 9 and 14. This is generally more effective because permanent teeth are still growing in, the jaw is still developing, and teeth are not as dense as adults, requiring less pressure to adjust. Treatment at this age allows the orthodontist to guide teeth into the proper alignment and prepare the jaw and mouth for future growth.
Some children with severe orthodontic issues can benefit from early, or interceptive, treatment. Interceptive orthodontic treatment occurs when there are still baby teeth present and helps redirect the growth and development of the teeth and jaws to avoid bigger, more serious issues in the future.
Many orthodontic problems are faster and easier to correct if they are identified and treated earlier in a child’s development than later before teeth are set and facial bones have stopped growing. However, some issues can be hard to notice, especially in younger patients who have not begun to lose teeth.
With resources like x-rays, digital photographs, and moldings, orthodontists can pinpoint subtleties in jaw growth and emerging teeth—even with baby teeth still present—that may pose a threat to your child’s future oral development. An early consultation can make sure the condition is monitored and addressed at the most ideal time.
The most important step you can take in caring for your child’s orthodontic needs is selecting the right orthodontist. Be sure your orthodontist is certified by the American Association of Orthodontists, or AAO. In addition to traditional dental school, these professionals have also completed at least 2 years of an accredited orthodontic residency program and specialize in orthodontic care and treatment. They have the skill and expertise to develop, implement, and monitor the best treatment plan to help your child achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.
Dental Depot is proud to offer exceptional continuity of care for your family’s dental health, from routine dental cleanings to orthodontic treatment. Because we offer an AAO-certified orthodontist at each of our four orthodontic locations, we can meet all of your oral health needs in one convenient place. If you are concerned about your child’s oral health and development, or simply want to learn more about our orthodontic treatment options, visit our website at dentaldepot.net/orthodontics, where you can also schedule a free consultation.