What is preventive orthodontics?
Preventive orthodontics are dental devices designed to avoid future problems from developing. There are both genetic and environmental factors that affect whether a child has or will grow into orthodontic problems. An orthodontist’s aim is to identify what problems are developing and devise a way to stop them while it is still relatively easy.
When should orthodontic treatment begin?
The best age for a child to first see an orthodontist is around age seven. Orthodontic problems will begin to appear around this age, and there is still plenty of time to correct them.
The type of problem your child presents with will largely determine when treatment should begin. Some types of orthodontic treatments can begin as early as seven to nine years of age. If braces are required, it is recommended to wait until all the patient’s baby teeth have fallen out. Usually, this treatment begins between 11 and 14 years old.
What does the orthodontist look for?
When you bring your child in for their first orthodontic visit, the first order of business is to conduct a complete examination. There are a number of things that indicate a child may benefit from preventive kids orthodontics. These include:
Continuing to suck their thumb after age five
Having difficulty with biting or chewing
Front teeth that are crowded together
The child breathes through their mouth
Their teeth stick out
Their jaw sticks out
Their upper and lower teeth don’t come together correctly
The child experiences pain when biting
The child’s jaw shifts when opening or closing their mouth
Many of these signs are quite obvious, and parents can keep a sharp eye out for them as well. If you notice any of these, be sure to take your child to see an orthodontist, even if they aren’t quite seven years old yet. When you bring them in earlier for treatment, your orthodontist can devise a treatment plan that can be put into effect exactly at the optimal age.
After the initial visit, the orthodontist will then make recommendations for treatment (or not) depending on the state of your child’s mouth.
What happens if poor orthodontic development is not treated?
The results of poor orthodontic development will vary from child to child. Some children may not have any troubles at all, whereas others will have serious issues.
Kids who have uncorrected space issues or crooked teeth may find themselves more vulnerable to gum disease and tooth decay as they grow older. Crowded or crooked teeth are harder to clean, leaving spaces for food particles and bacteria to get trapped and negatively affecting the child’s oral health.
As we indicated earlier, proper orthodontic development is also crucial for proper breathing, which is integral to your overall health. There are various diseases, such as sleep apnea, temporomandibular joint disorders, and other systemic issues, that can be caused or worsened by poor breathing.
Benefits of Preventive Orthodontics
An experienced orthodontist is able to examine a child’s mouth and anticipate these problems, offering suggestions of how to fix them while the child is still growing. Many types of orthodontic problems can be treated in adulthood, but this route is less recommended. Adult procedures generally take longer and may be more painful. Not to mention, they tend to be more expensive because of the extra work involved.
It can also be more socially uncomfortable to wear orthodontics in adulthood. A metal smile while giving a work presentation is less than desirable. However, preventive orthodontics as a child removes this problem and leaves your child with a smile ready to dazzle their coworkers when the time comes.
Your Child’s First Orthodontic Visit
Is your child reaching the ideal age for their first orthodontic visit? Even if they’ve passed it or it’s early but you have noticed potential problems, it’s a good idea to visit an orthodontist.
You don't have to wait for an orthodontic problem to arise before you visit your orthodontist. We will use radiographs and a clinical exam to evaluate children as early as 7 years old. Often, if a problem with the teeth is noticed early enough, the treatment can be much shorter, less expensive and less traumatic for the patient. Here is a list of common preventative treatments that our orthodontists have performed.
Early loss of teeth sometimes requires a space maintainer. If a tooth is lost before the permanent tooth has a chance to take its place, the space will close when other teeth drift into the space.
Once the permanent tooth erupts, it's path will be out of alignment as well. A space maintainer is an orthodontic appliance that holds the space open so that the permanent tooth. can erupt favorably. It is a simple device that can save your child many months of future orthodontic treatment.
Mild to moderate crowding may be alleviated or reduced without using braces if treatment begins while the permanent front teeth are erupting (before 7 years of age). This can be done by creating more space for the teeth and allowing natural alignment to occur. A space analysis can be done as soon as baby teeth start to fall out so it is important to have xrays taken and to visit us to allow for the most efficient treatment possible.
Sometimes baby teeth do not fall out when they are supposed to. In fact, there are some cases when the baby tooth does not fall out naturally at all. This can happen when the permanent tooth is congenitally missing or grows in the wrong location and does not push out the baby tooth. In these cases it may be necessary to extract the baby tooth to allow for proper alignment of the permanent teeth.
When a healthy mouth bites down, the top teeth will fit outside of the bottom teeth. This is natures way of helping you chew your food without chewing your cheeks and lips. Cross-bite is when the top teeth in the back fit on the inside of the lower teeth. We can fabricate one of several appliances that will be specific for your case. Usually, this means expanding the upper arch. If corrected early enough with an appliance, a jaw disharmony can be prevented. This can also correct esthetic disharmony in your frontal profile.
Intense, prolonged thumb or finger sucking can have adverse affects on the teeth and jaws. It may cause the upper front teeth to tip forward and even the upper jaw to move forward.
Stopping the habit in time is important in preventing potentially serious overbite. We can fabricate an appliance that makes it nearly impossible to suck your thumb or fingers. If the problem is addressed early enough, braces may not even be necessary.
Permanent front teeth may be straightened with braces at the ages of 8-10. These braces are often only bonded to the front teeth. Sometimes this is necessary to correct a functional problem and/or to prevent a more serious problem at a later time. At other times, parents may desire that braces be placed early to improve a child's appearance. Remember, children want to look as normal as possible and sometimes gross discrepancies in tooth alignment can lead to insecurities that can otherwise be corrected. However, we will need to evaluate each patient on a case-by-case basis as braces are not appropriate for all young children.
Early Straightening of Permanent Incisors
Some children have a significant mismatch of the upper and lower jaws. Orthopedic appliances can help align the jaws properly. These appliances can usually be inserted and removed by the patient.
Functional Jaw Orthopedics
One of the primary reasons a headgear is used is to correct the way the upper and lower molars fit together. It can also be used to create additional space for permanent teeth alignment. We do not feel it is appropriate to have children wear headgear to school because it is too intrusive with daily activity; he asks his patients to wear them at home and to sleep.
Disking is a procedure that creates extra space to improve alignment of permanent teeth. This can be in conjunction with braces or instead of braces. It works best in children with mild to moderate crowding of permanent incisors. The amount of tooth removed in between teeth is imperceptible and does not affect further tooth function.