Sometimes parents of young children appear shocked when we suggest that they consult with an orthodontist about their child’s teeth. “But she’s only 6 years old and still has her baby teeth – why would we see an orthodontist at this point?”
Legitimate question – for sure – but more and more dentists, orthodontists and parents are working together on the idea of preventive orthodontics, which can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
Why the Need for Preventive Orthodontics?
Preventive orthodontics provides dental professionals with a way to identify and intercept teeth problems in children, that when caught early enough, help to avoid more aggressive and costlier treatment later on.
As your child grows, certain problems may become apparent during their regular examination at the dentist. These tooth problems may include, but are not limited to, crowding or too much space between teeth, overbite, underbite, extra teeth, missing teeth, jaw abnormalities, extracted teeth, and protruding teeth. What causes these types of problems? Genetics, poor nutrition, trauma, thumb/finger sucking, poor oral hygiene, and dental disease can all add to early onset of orthodontic problems.
What Types of Preventive Measures are Used?
The answer to this question differs, depending on the situation. For example, early loss of a molar may require that we place a space maintainer in the space left by the tooth, to keep the space “reserved” for the permanent tooth.
An appliance (headgear) that the child wears for 12-15 hours a day may be advised to correct top and bottom molar alignment.
If your child is a thumb or finger sucker, there is an appliance that can be inserted in your child’s mouth that makes it difficult for your child to continue with a habit that can lead to a serious overbite problem.
Permanent front teeth are the first to appear. If a problem exists, braces can be bonded to these teeth to correct the problem, potentially eliminating the need for more extensive, and expensive, orthodontic care.
What are the Benefits of Early Orthodontic Intervention?
Early intervention and treatment (as early as age 7) may prevent the development of far more serious conditions, making treatment options available that are less complicated , time-consuming, and expensive.
When, after careful examination of your child, we determine that there are clear indicators that early orthodontic intervention is warranted, we will refer you to an orthodontist for a second opinion and any recommended treatment that we are unable to perform in our office.
Early detection and treatment of orthodontic conditions allows us to:
- Protect protruding front teeth from the risk of trauma
- Improve oral hygiene and habits that may be contributing to a condition
- Help your child avoid self-esteem issues or being made fun of by peers
- Guide permanent teeth into their proper position to avoid spacing/crowding issues
- Monitor and direct jaw growth and development
What if I Suspect a Problem with My Child’s Teeth?
If you do suspect a problem, waiting on it and hoping it will go away doesn’t work. Many times, too, you can be completely unaware that a problem exists simply because you can’t see it!
Why not give a participating dentist near you a call to examine your child? This will either put your mind at rest or initiate the necessary recommendations for the appropriate action that we might advise that you take, at a time when it is most beneficial to all concerned, particularly to your child!