Why does a child need orthodontic treatment?

Either genetics or environmental factors may have influenced the development of your child's jaws and muscles. For example, your child might have inherited a small jaw from one parent and large teeth from the other. Or, your child might suck his or her thumb or have a sleeping pattern that has affected how the cheeks and jaws have developed.

Is it too early to start treatment?

No. Between the ages of 5 and 10, some permanent teeth have already erupted. During this time, the bones and muscles are growing rapidly. This is when the doctor can influence their growth to create an optimal bite. Things can be accomplished now that can't easily be done later -- or can't be done as well. Also, with early treatment you may prevent future bite problems from developing.

What's involved in treatment?

Early treatment may last a year or longer. Your child may wear some braces during this time, but they will be used mainly as an anchor for other appliances that will influence the growth of bone or muscle. In most cases, a second phase of orthodontic treatment (full braces) is also necessary. This phase is usually started after all the permanent teeth have erupted. It helps move the teeth into their final positions.

What are the benefits of an early orthodontic treatment?

Early treatment offers many benefits, often achieving one or more of the following goals:

  • Enhancing self-esteem by improving the child's appearance with proper jaw alignment.
  • Creating a more stable long-term result, especially with severe bite problems.
  • Shortening or improving the results of the second phase of treatment.
  • Allowing for treatment at an age when children are more cooperative. 
  • Helping prevent fractures to buckteeth (since teeth that stick out are more easily damaged during falls or in accidents). 
  • Minimize future jaw surgery. 
  • Minimizing removal of permanent teeth.

These are some of the signs that early treatment may be necessary due to jaw or muscles problems:

  • An unbalanced profile.
  • An overbite, under-bite, cross-bite, gummy smile, deep bite, or open bite.
  • Overlapping or crowded teeth.
  • Difficulty chewing.
  • Open mouth breathing.
  • Speech problems.
  • Tongue-thrusting (pushing the tongue against teeth while swallowing).
  • Thumb or finger-sucking.
  • Jaw joint problems.

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