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The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children as young as age seven should receive an orthodontic consultation. While this age may seem too young to some, childhood is the ideal time to correct orthodontic issues. This is because the jaws and teeth are still developing. Instead of changing the tooth and jaw structure as needed in adult patients, orthodontists have the opportunity to guide and foster healthy jaw development in young patients. This equates to a number of dental and orthodontic health benefits for the rest of the patient’s life.
Early Treatment Benefits
Early orthodontic treatment, also called interceptive orthodontics, has a wealth of benefits for both children and their families. By recognizing and correcting orthodontic issues early, the need for corrective treatments later in life can be drastically reduced. Preventing orthodontic issues is much more simple and beneficial than correcting already existing issues. With early treatment, orthodontics can identify potential development issues before they become significant as the child grows and develops.
Early treatment benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:
Regulating the development of dental arches
Creating space for permanent teeth
Avoiding the need for later tooth extractions
Reducing the likelihood of later tooth impaction
Reducing or eliminating swallowing or speech abnormalities
Early Treatment Candidates
Parents and guardians are recommended to watch out for certain red flags or warning signs that may indicate that early treatment may be beneficial. If these signs are recognized, parents and guardians should schedule an orthodontic consultation to get a professional opinion on the child’s dental health and orthodontic development.
Children may be recommended for early treatment when they exhibit signs such as:
Difficulty biting and chewing
Breathing through their mouth
Crowded front teeth
Late or early loss of baby teeth
Thumb sucking after age five
Misaligned teeth in resting position
Crossbite, or jaw shifting when opening or closing the mouth
Why Early Treatment?
Early treatment is important because the jaws will typically harden and stop developing by the end of the teen years. When this occurs, it becomes significantly more difficult to correct issues, as jaw and tooth positions must be changed completely. Early treatment allows for developmental intervention. This means that identified orthodontic issues can be prevented before the jaws stop developing. The jaws and teeth can be guided into more healthy positions, thus facilitating the permanent teeth when it’s time for them to come in.