people think of orthodontics, they only think of the actual
"braces" that are typically placed to straighten your permanent
teeth. However, one of the crucial roles that orthodontics plays
is the treatment done during a child's early years, before all
the permanent teeth have come in.
There are many specific reasons to consider early (phase 1)
orthodontic intervention for children. The American Association
of Orthodontists recommends that every child have a check up
with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7.
Occasionally, children as young as 4 to 6 are treated for
certain orthodontic problems such as underbites. Needs for
individual children vary, so the following reasons should be
1. 'Window of opportunity' during growth
Certain jaw movements, such as widening of the upper jaw, should
be done prior to fusion of the upper jaw bones which typically
starts at age 8. Often by the time all the permanent teeth
erupt, the procedures that would have required minimal growth
modification during earlier years may require jaw surgery and/or
extraction of permanent teeth and may result in compromised
2. Decrease need to extract permanent teeth in the future
Your child's jaws continue to grow to accommodate room for their
back molars and wisdom teeth. However, contrary to what most
parents might think, the space for your child's front teeth is
at its maximum at age 4. Between ages 4 and 12, about 4-8 mm of
space (the width of a tooth) is lost naturally by the back teeth
Early treatment minimizes extracting permanent teeth by allowing
the Orthodontist to modify the shape of the jaw, create more
room and preserve needed space when primary teeth are still
3. Avoid or reduce need for facial/oral surgery later on
Decrease the chance of impacted (i.e. stuck, not erupting
normally) teeth that may require future oral surgery.
An Orthodontist can often eliminate the risk of future facial
surgery with early treatment at a time when a child's facial
growth can be modified.
4. Correct harmful habits
Habits such as thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting can not only
interfere with proper speech and chewing, but hey can also cause
problems that, if untreated as a young child, could require jaw
surgery later in life.
5. Decrease risk of tooth trauma
Research shows that early treatment could reduce the risk of
trauma to protruded front teeth.
6. Improve psychological factors
Improved facial esthetics positively affects your child's
outlook and attitude by increasing self-confidence and
protecting him/her from being seen by peers as different.
As adults, we forget how unforgiving children are to others who
appear 'different' from them when it comes to their appearance
and/or speech. When we improve the appearance and function of
children earlier in life, we help to increase their self-esteem.
7. Increase compliance
Younger patients tend to be more compliant and cooperative
8. Maximize benefits of orthodontics
Having a solid foundation provides final orthodontic results
(Phase 2) that are optimal with better stability and ideal
When all the facts are considered, the importance of early
orthodontic treatment for young children becomes clear.