What Does Early Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment Mean for Your Child?

Early treatment for kids ensures they receive help as soon as possible to make it as efficient and comfortable as possible.

While anyone can get orthodontic treatment done, kids and teenagers have a massive advantage over adults and seniors. Not only do younger patients heal much quicker and thus have fewer chances of losing their results, but they can also avoid lengthy and invasive treatments with an interceptive treatment if they visit their orthodontist for an evaluation soon enough.

Why Is Orthodontic Evaluation Important for Children?

Early orthodontic evaluation in children is crucial in detecting orthodontic issues that are present or are developing. Noticing any teeth or jaw-related problems at a young age can help avoid or diminish the amount of treatment needed later on. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends parents take their children to an orthodontist as soon they notice an orthodontic condition. Even if parents don’t see any problems present, the AAO recommends taking them for their first check-up at age seven at most.

Receiving orthodontic evaluation allows orthodontists to perform a two-phase orthodontic treatment if necessary. Such treatment could help fix a variety of issues like crowded teeth, crooked teeth, spaced teeth, or even malocclusions, also known as bad bites, such as underbites or crossbites.

What Is the Purpose of Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment?

Taking a child for an early orthodontic evaluation and unveiling present and developing problems allows orthodontists to draft a treatment plan for the orthodontic patient if needed. Remember that orthodontists will only recommend two-phase treatment to those who will substantially benefit from it. A few examples of possible benefits from interceptive treatment are much shorter time with orthodontic appliances and avoiding invasive surgery altogether.

The first phase of this two-staged treatment begins when your child is around six to nine years old, after their first visit to the orthodontist when permanent teeth start to erupt, and primary teeth begin to fall. After the orthodontist identifies the problem, they’ll recommend a specific treatment or appliance for the patient to use for around nine to 12 months. According to the AAO, the treatment aims to intercept the problem at hand, eliminate it, and guide the development of the patient’s dental structure.

After this first stage, a resting period begins. During the resting period, the bones and tissue can heal fully, and the patient will mostly complete the loss of baby teeth before entering the next phase. In phase two of interceptive orthodontic treatment, the patient receives a more common treatment like braces to finish moving the now permanent teeth into the desired position.

What Causes an Early Orthodontic Intervention?

There are a few naturally occurring and environment-led reasons for a child to require early orthodontic intervention. While many times parents can avoid orthodontic problems in their children by keeping an eye on them and their bad dental habits, there still are some factors outside anyone’s control.

As a reminder, your child should start leaving behind bad habits such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting at around four years old. If they haven’t by then, you may want to check with a pediatric dentist or orthodontist.

Here are a few ways these oral habits can affect your child’s dental development and structure.

Thumb Sucking

As mentioned, thumb-sucking during the first few years of a child’s life isn’t a problem. The orthodontic problems come when they continue the bad habit past four or five years old. Extended thumb sucking can have an effect on the development and positioning of both your teeth and your jaws. Sometimes the finger-sucking habit is strong enough to cause malocclusion in your children.

A few of the most common malocclusions are an open bite, where your front teeth don’t touch when closing your mouth, leaving an open space, and a crossbite, where some teeth in your upper row fit behind the teeth in the lower row.

Tongue Thrusting

Similarly to thumb sucking, tongue thrusting is something completely normal that kids do when they are still learning how to swallow properly. If they keep doing it years later, however, they will have some serious effects on their teeth and jaw development.

Tongue thrusting can result in many types of deviations. An anterior open bite refers to the front-facing teeth not closing, causing difficulty speaking. Tongue thrust forward, on the other hand, means that your upper row of teeth protrudes forward while your lower teeth lean inward. Bilateral Tongue thrust refers to your molars on both sides of your mouth being unable to close completely. This last possibility tends to be the most difficult consequence to fix.

Avoid Treatments You Don’t Need

Don’t wait for your children to be in pain to take them to their first orthodontic visit. Make sure you are doing your best to avoid unnecessary treatments for your child by scheduling an appointment for them as soon as possible. Here at Balhoff Orthodontics, we’ll be ready to help you or your family get the healthy and beautiful smile they deserve.