As specialist orthodontist, we like to see a child when they’re 7-8 years old. This also coincides with the eruption of the permanent front teeth, to assess if there is likely to be any need for early (intervention) treatment.
Modern orthodontics takes a holistic approach to the overall wellbeing of a child, in addition to the teeth and jaws, we look at facial growth and development as well as function and breathing.
It is a common misconception that orthodontics deals only with straightening crooked teeth – this is only one part of orthodontics.
Early assessment does not equal early treatment, it mainly allows us to time treatment correctly to be most effective as well as efficient. There are many stories floating around on the internet of 4-5 year long orthodontic treatments.
In most cases, these protracted courses of treatment can be avoided through well timed effective treatments.
We strongly believe in minimising the burden of treatment staying clear of “over-treatment”. We like to limit the amount of treatment delivered at an early age to that which delivers a proven long-term benefit, and positively impacts future development.
It has been misconceived that orthodontic treatment should only be performed when all the adult teeth have erupted. In many cases this is too late.
Some bite and jaw development issues are best treated at a young age before puberty while baby teeth are still present. Other problems are best addressed during the growth spurt that accompanies puberty when the adult teeth are coming through.
This is the time when much of the development of the face occurs. Treatment during this period allows the orthodontist to favourably influence the facial profile in a growing child. Once growth of the facial bones is complete, correction of skeletal discrepancies usually requires surgery.
After all, the face and mouth are complex structures, and different parts grow and mature at different stages in a child’s development. Correct timing ensures that we benefit from natural growth to help the treatment and prevent certain bite problems from getting worse or negatively impacting the developing teeth and jaws.
What are some of the issues that require early intervention? Here are some examples:
Excessive crowding: early treatment can reduce the need for extractions in the future
Crossbites (also known as “underbite”)
Delayed tooth eruption
Underdeveloped upper jaw
Obstructive sleep apnoea, excessive mouth breathing and snoring
Chronic “thumb or finger’ sucking habits
Protrusive front teeth at risk to trauma
What are the benefits of an early intervention?
Normalising the growth environment for both the teeth and soft tissue such as the lips and tongue
Preventing abnormal tooth wear on the adult teeth
Reducing or eliminating the need for extractions
Reducing the risk of trauma
An assessment with a specialist orthodontist that is taken between ages 7 – 8 years old allows us to make a tailored long-term plan that ensures that the child has the best possible outcome with the least burden of care.