Many people think that the correct age for your child to see an orthodontist is in their teens, shortly after their permanent adult teeth come through. However, this is a common misconception and children should be seen much earlier.
The Australian Society of Orthodontist recommends children should visit an orthodontist for an assessment between the ages of 8-10 years old.
At this age, some baby teeth may still be present but adult teeth will have started to erupt, and the orthodontist will be able to assess your child thoroughly and identify any functional issues when the dental structure is still developing.
Early orthodontic intervention is commonly referred to as phase 1 treatment. The objective to early treatment is to prevent further problems developing as the jaw grows and to minimise the need for extensive treatment later on.
Not all children will require early treatment and in a number of cases, the orthodontist may recommend monitoring of your child’s growth and development, and plan for correct treatment timing in growing children to achieve the best dental and facial outcomes.
The need for early orthodontic intervention depends on a child’s individual problem, teeth position and bite. Most children who need early orthodontics may still need braces later, but it may be significantly shorter and less complicated and, in some cases, may not require further treatment.
Problems with your child’s occlusion (bite), otherwise known as malocclusion, can lead to lifelong problems, pain and expenses as an adult. Knowing your child has a problem (or not) can be challenging, and orthodontists have trained specifically to be able to detect such subtle issues. Sometimes, what may seem like abnormal development to a parent can be harmless, but other less noticeable changes can easily go undetected.
Early orthodontic treatment can take many forms. If at consultation problems are detected, then these are some things your orthodontist may do to help:
Guide the growth of the jaw in underbites or overbites
Correct crossbites if the jaw shifts to one side
Address chewing or biting difficulties
Create room for adult teeth to erupt into favourable positions for very crowded teeth
Reduce the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
Fixed orthodontic appliance may have beneficial impact on mouth breathing and/or snoring
Correct bad oral habits, like thumb sucking
Outcomes for your children may be better if treated early rather than as a teenager or adult. If you think your child needs or would benefit from early orthodontic treatment, seek a consultation with a specialist orthodontist.
The orthodontist can alert you to potential problems and recommend treatment when it is most appropriate for your child. Remember, timing is everything!