Timing is everything – even when it comes to your child’s orthodontic treatment. “Early” treatment, also called “interceptive” treatment, means treatment that is performed while some baby teeth are still present.
While many orthodontic problems that are best treated after all permanent teeth have come in, early treatment can be in your child's best interests if their problem is one that could become more serious over time if left untreated.
The goal of early treatment is to halt or reverse a developing problem, guide tooth eruption and jaw growth, and provide adequate space for incoming permanent teeth.
Dr. Godley recommends children have an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7. At that age, children's mouths contain a mixture of adult teeth and baby teeth. This makes it possible for an orthodontist to assess your child's teeth and bite, and identify potential problems. If you suspect that your child has an airway or breathing problem, Dr. Godley recommends an evaluation sooner than age 7.
The majority of the time no treatment is necessary at all. In most cases, the orthodontist will simply monitor your child's growth & dental development until permanent teeth have erupted.
Conditions orthodontists may recommend treating early:
When the lower front teeth are ahead of the upper front teeth. This can be a result of the lower jaw growing too much, causing it to extend beyond the upper jaw. If not addressed early, this may lead to tooth wear, asymmetric jaw growth, and extensive treatment in the future.
When some or all of the upper teeth rest on the inside of the lower teeth rather than on the outside. This can cause the jaw to shift to one side. Early on, a child may simply "shift" their jaw to once side, due to an interfering tooth. However, if not addressed, certain types of crossbite can cause children to grow asymmetrically.
3. Severe crowding
When there is not enough room in the mouth for a permanent tooth or teeth. As a result, the permanent teeth may become crooked or stuck (impacted) in the jaw bone. If not addressed, severe crowding can lead to tooth extractions or extensive treatment in the future.
4. Thumb sucking/tongue thrusting
These habits can result in abnormal growth of the jaws, protrusion of teeth, and malocclusion.
5. Severe overjet (protruding teeth)
When teeth stick out too far forward compared with lower teeth or lower jaw. This places them at a very high risk for trauma, fracture, and chipping.
6. Ankylosed teeth
Rarely, a tooth can become fused or "ankylosed" to the jawbone. When this occurs, the tooth stops erupting and may become submerged.
7. Mouth breathing
This is an abnormal respiratory pattern. Like thumb sucking and tongue thrusting, mouth breathing can result in abnormal growth of the jaws and malocclusion. It may also be a symptom of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, which can lead to impaired growth and cognitive function.
Some of these orthodontic problems are inherited, while others may result from accidents, dental disease, abnormal swallowing, or habits. Waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in, or until growth is nearly complete, can make correction of certain problems much more difficult.
At Godley Family Orthodontics, we want to help you give your child the best opportunity for a healthy bite and smile. No referral is needed, and we provide an initial consultation at no cost or obligation. Dr. Godley can alert you to potential problems and recommend treatment when it is most appropriate for your child.