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Helpful Hints About Early Orthodontic TreatmentBy Dr. Jack Sahlaney, D.M.D., M.D.S.
The summer is in full swing, the kids are out of school and during summer break your children usually have biannual check-ups by the physician and dentist. The summer break is an ideal time to have your children evaluated by an orthodontist for possible braces. How old does my child have to be for braces? Does my child need braces? These are just a few questions parents have when deciding on orthodontic treatment. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked orthodontic questions we receive from our patients upon their first visit to our office.
Q: What is orthodontics?
A: Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for these problems is malocclusion which means bad bite.
Q: What is an orthodontist?
A: An orthodontist is a specialist in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. All orthodontist are dentists.
Q: What causes orthodontic problems or malocclusions?
A: Most malocclusions are inherited but some can be acquired.
· Inherited problems include crowding of teeth, spaces between the teeth, extra or missing teeth, and irregularities with the jaws.
· Acquired malocclusions can be caused by trauma, thumb or finger habits, premature loss of baby teeth or permanent teeth, and dental disease or cavities.
Whether inherited or acquired, many of these problems affect the alignment of the teeth, facial development, and overall appearance of the face.
Q: At what age should your child be evaluated for braces?
A: The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an orthodontic check-up no later than the age of 7.
Q: Why should children have a check-up?
A: By the age of 7, enough permanent teeth have come into the mouth and enough jaw growth has occurred to allow the dentist, hygienist, and orthodontist to identify current problems, anticipate future problems, and alleviate parents’ concerns if all is normal. The upper and lower front teeth (incisors) and permanent first molars are usually in by age 7 and crowding, crossbites, and injury-prone dental protrusions can be evaluated.
Q: What are some early signs that your child may show a need for early evaluation or check-up?
A: Crowding or blocked out teeth, early or late loss of baby teeth, thumb habits, biting the cheeks or the roof of the mouth, teeth that meet abnormally or not at all, and upper and lower jaw growth problems.
Q: What are the benefits of early orthodontic treatment?
A: For certain children early orthodontic treatment can:
· Guide incoming permanent teeth into their normal positions
· Regulate the width of the upper jaw to correct crossbites
· Decrease the risk of trauma to protruded upper front four teeth (incisors)
· Stop and correct harmful habits (thumb and finger habits)
· Guide the growth of the upper and lower jaws
· Improve the individuals personal appearance and self-esteem
· Possibly shorten and/or simplify treatment time for later corrective orthodontics
Q: If my child has early orthodontic treatment while they still have a number of baby teeth are they going to need braces again when all the permanent teeth are in the mouth?
A: 80% of the time additional orthodontic treatment, Phase II orthodontics, may be advised to straighten the rest of the permanent teeth and coordinate the bite (how the back teeth fit together).
Take home message
In conclusion your child should have an orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7. If your child is older than 7, it’s not too late for a check-up. Remember, all individuals are different in physiological development and treatment needs. The orthodontist’s goal is to provide each individual with the most appropriate treatment at the most appropriate time. This time may be at 7 years of age or 12 years of age. Your dentist and hygienist are closely monitoring your child’s development. If you have any questions or concerns please call your dentist and/or hygienist so they may advise you on what is best for your child. If you have additional questions please consult an orthodontist. Additional information can be obtained at the website www.braces.org. I hope these FAQ’s have enlightened you on orthodontic problems and the advantages of early orthodontic treatment.
Acknowledgment: Special thanks to the American Association of Orthodontics for the time and research allowing orthodontists to provide the answers to our patients’ questions.