Children and teens typically get braces between the ages of nine and 14, although it is also appropriate and recommended that younger children visit an orthodontist for an early exam and consultation. Well-documented research suggests that early intervention can help to prevent greater dental health problems later in life.
What Types of Conditions Require Early Intervention?
Early orthodontic treatment may be appropriate for younger children with crooked teeth, jaw and bite misalignment, and other common issues. Early intervention may be useful for several types of problems, including:
- Class I malocclusion: This condition is quite common. It’s the most commonly occurring form of malocclusion. This type of malocclusion may include abnormalities of crooked teeth or teeth that stick out at atypical angles. The bite may be considered normal, but the upper teeth may slightly overlap the lower teeth. Early intervention is significant for this malocclusion as it’s typically done in two phases of about two years each.
- Class II malocclusion: An overbite, known in orthodontic terms as Class II malocclusion, or retrognathism occurs when both the teeth and upper jaw severely overlap the bottom teeth and jaw. It can be important for interceptive orthodontic treatment to begin as early while the jawbones are still “soft” and malleable.
The jaw is much easier to manipulate in a younger patient than an older one. Once the jaw bones are solidified, the treatment becomes more challenging and expensive. The process may be longer and may even include breaking and realigning the jaws. In some instances, it might be better to wait until adolescence to begin treatment for this problem. Your orthodontist can help determine the best course of action.
- Class III malocclusion: Commonly known as an underbite, orthodontists call this problem “prognathism.” If the upper jaw is too small or the lower jaw too big, Class III malocclusion may require early intervention. The lower jaw may jut out and protrude forward, causing the lower teeth and jaw to overlap the upper teeth and jaw. Since orthodontic treatment involves changing and manipulating growth patterns, it’s a smart choice to have an underbite treated as early as age seven.
- Crossbite: A crossbite occurs when the upper and lower jaws are not correctly aligned. One jaw or the other may be shifted horizontally to one side. A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance that helps to widen the upper jaw, thus allowing teeth to align correctly. Since the jaw must shift laterally to fix this problem, it’s advisable to have early treatment, as it can be less challenging to correct the jaw by moving it before an age where the jawbones have hardened completely.
What Other Considerations Are Involved with Early Intervention?
Early orthodontic intervention isn’t necessarily helpful for all conditions. It’s typically recommended that a child have an initial exam and consultation with an orthodontist at about the age of seven.
The orthodontic professional will look for potential problems and determine if early treatment is the best course of action. Set up an appointment with an orthodontist, like an orthodontist in San Clemente, CA, for a customized treatment plan that addresses your child’s unique orthodontic needs.
Thanks to John Redmond Orthodontics for their insight into when your child should start seeing an orthodontist.