It seems to many parents that children are entering orthodontic treatment at younger ages these days and braces for children is getting a lot more popular.
Because of that, sometimes parents worry that they’re missing out on the best time to correct their children’s orthodontic issues if a pediatric dentist or orthodontist tells them to wait to start treatment until their child’s adult teeth have erupted.
If you’re one of those parents, we hope this article will set your mind at ease.
Here’s the truth: just one in five children with a mixture of baby and adult teeth are candidates for early orthodontic treatment.
Early orthodontics treatment is also known as interceptive treatment, and it refers to any treatment that corrects or reduces the severity of a child’s malocclusion (bad bite) as their adult teeth erupt and the jaws develop. The purpose of interceptive treatment is to address an orthodontic concern early rather than later to achieve the best result. It often involves using your child’s growth to the orthodontist’s advantage when correcting the problem.
Malocclusions that often warrant interceptive treatment include:
- Overjet– The distance between the back of the upper front teeth and the front of the lower front teeth when the jaws are closed.
- Crossbite– The teeth in the upper arch fit to the inside of the lower teeth or completely to the outside of the lower teeth.
- Underbite– The lower teeth project forward beyond the teeth in the upper jaw.
Not all interceptive treatment requires conventional braces with brackets and arch wires. Sometimes other appliances are used.
Let’s say your child’s palate is narrow and we are concerned that there isn’t enough room for the adult teeth to erupt. A palatal expander may be used to expand the upper dental arch and create more room.
Expanding the arch to its proper size increases the chance that the adult teeth will erupt in better position.
Interceptive treatment also may be recommended in cases where the dental arches and jaws are not in the correct position. Appliances are available that can fix or improve these problems. A second round of orthodontic treatment typically is needed when your child is older, but it may be shorter and less involved.
There are some cases in which interceptive treatment requires no appliances. For example, we may extract a baby tooth if its adult counterpart has erupted and the baby tooth shows no signs of falling out on its own.
Parents want to do what is best for their children, and so do pediatric dentists. When it comes to orthodontic treatment in children younger than age 12, take comfort in knowing that in one out of five cases, the best course of action is to take no action.