Many parents are surprised when their dentist recommends an appointment with an orthodontist for their young child. People often have the mistaken idea that orthodontists only straighten teeth after they are already crooked or crowded. The reality is that beginning these appointments early has many immediate and lifelong benefits for young children.
Early orthodontic treatment refers to treatment that begins between 7 and 10 years old and usually lasts about a year. This treatment utilizes orthodontic appliances or limited braces for kids who still have most (or all) of their baby teeth. Since the bones are still developing, the orthodontic treatment will guide jaw growth in the proper direction and leave enough room for the child’s permanent teeth as they erupt later.
In this article, we break down why early intervention is so important and the range of benefits that children’s orthodontic treatment offers.
Why Early Interceptive Children’s Orthodontic Treatment is So Important
Children’s orthodontic treatment, also referred to as early interceptive treatment, has many positive short and long-term effects, including:
- Helps with proper chewing and biting.
- Prevents or eliminates poor oral habits like thumb sucking or tongue thrust.
- Early correction of an underbite, severe overbite, crossbite, or other jaw-related concerns.
- Guides jaw growth.
- Alleviates crowding, which prevents impacted teeth and gives the permanent teeth adequate space.
- Reduces chances of breaking or chipping protruding front teeth.
- Contributes to the long-term stability of the teeth.
- Aids speech and breathing.
- Supports facial symmetry.
- Builds rapport between young children and orthodontists.
The sooner that potential orthodontic problems are identified, the better the outcome for the child, especially in the long term. Why not eliminate the need for much more in-depth treatment later when early intervention can prevent it?
7 Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children
The bones of children aren’t yet fully developed, and this makes it easier and faster to correct orthodontic issues. Interceptive treatment can make the way for permanent teeth to come in with enough space and the correct alignment. But the benefits go much deeper than that.
Here are some of the most important and valuable results of interceptive treatment with young children:
Preventing Premature Loss Of Teeth
It’s important to allow a child’s baby teeth to remain in place for the normal duration. Your regular dentist can help keep those baby teeth healthy and cavity-free. However, if they fall out too soon, the surrounding teeth will begin to shift into those empty spaces and the permanent teeth will be crooked, too.
If a baby tooth is lost too early, the orthodontist can insert a device to keep that gap open until it’s time for the permanent tooth to come in. This protects that space from encroachment from the teeth on either side. The permanent tooth can still come in while the appliance is there and it will be removed when the orthodontist decides it has done its job.
Reducing Or Correcting Speech Problems
Children usually fear standing out in some way from their peers. A child who speaks with a lisp or some other speech impediment is often teased or bullied by other kids. This can lead to behavioral problems and a lack of self-esteem. However, correcting a bad bite or misaligned teeth can often help prevent these speech problems.
Eliminating Mouth Breathing, Snoring, and Sleep Apnea
These problems may seem minor, but chronic mouth breathing has a negative effect on a child’s quality of life. It can narrow a child’s airway, change a child’s tongue position, create abnormal facial features, and even lead to poor sleep and cognitive issues.
Sleep apnea is another condition that can be helped with early orthodontic intervention. Without intervention, the symptoms are similar to those for ADHD, complete with restlessness, low reading scores, the inability to focus, and hyperactivity.
Enjoying Food and Encouraging Good Nutrition
It’s important that kids get all the good nutrition they can every day. But, your child may actually be refusing certain foods due to difficulties chewing. Bite issues, missing or gapping teeth, and poor alignment can all lead to avoiding hard or crunchy foods.
By dealing with dental health issues early, parents can be assured that their child is able to get the proper nutrition.
Keeping Teeth Clean And Healthy
Crooked or crowded teeth are difficult to brush and floss correctly. This allows bacteria to stay on the teeth and plaque to build up leading to tooth decay and gum disease. An orthodontist can identify potential overcrowding in a young child’s mouth and take action to correct it early.
Correcting Bite Problems
A bad bite, or malocclusion, can cause teeth to be crowded or crooked. Other results of a bad bite are facial or jaw pain and headaches. All of these are problems for your children and can lead to bigger issues like depression.
Early orthodontic treatment can resolve these problems by eliminating the malocclusion. A child’s bones are still developing so they can be manipulated more easily than an adult’s bones. This orthodontic correction allows the child’s mouth to continue to develop properly and remain in optimal alignment.
Saving Time, Pain, And Money
Delaying early orthodontic care makes later intervention more difficult and more expensive. More extensive orthodontic work at a later age will also take longer. Waiting can result in ongoing pain and a poor self-image for your child.
Left untreated, orthodontic problems only grow worse as children grow, leading to long-term bite and alignment issues. Parents can help by heeding the advice of their family dentist when an orthodontic referral is discussed. Small problems can be corrected early, thus preventing much larger, more expensive orthodontic procedures later.
At Swiatek Orthodontics, we offer professional, experienced, and compassionate orthodontic treatment for children. Our team can identify problems early and recommend effective treatment that also fits your budget. Contact us today to learn more about our services or set an appointment!