According to the American Association of Orthodontics, children should be evaluated by an orthodontist around the age of seven. At Rad Orthodontics, we evaluate children at this age or when they finally have several of their adult teeth.
Here are a few indicators that your child may need to see an orthodontist:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- A hard time chewing or biting food
- Mouth breathing
- Finger or thumb sucking
- Crowded, misplaced, or blocked teeth
- Jaws that pop or make sounds when opening and closing
- Teeth that come together abnormally, or do not come together at all
- Jaws and teeth that are not proportionate to the rest of the face
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
Not every child needs orthodontic treatment, but there are specific scenarios, some of which are mentioned above, where you should ensure your child receives some form of treatment. These include crowding of baby teeth, or maligned jaws. Also keep an eye on whether they have thumb-sucking habits, or tongue thrust habits that can affect the positioning of their teeth. In these cases jaw expanders, space maintainers, habit appliances, or retainers may be appropriate to correct habits and to create spacing for permanent teeth.
If there are no indications of crowding or the need to re-direct jaw growth, we usually wait until adult teeth begin erupting before we begin treatment. At Rad Orthodontics, we’ve found that we have better treatment results if we wait until 'the players are on the field.' However, if there are indications of a jaw that is too narrow or short, children may be candidates for Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment, also known as the Two-Phase Orthodontic Treatment. This treatment consists of two steps: creating room for your child's teeth, and then straightening out permanent teeth.
Phase One: Create Room for Permanent Teeth
The goal of phase one treatment is to guide jaw development in a way that will accommodate all permanent teeth, and improve the way the upper and lower jaw fit together. Phase One usually begins between ages six and eight, when children’s facial growth can be guided to align their jaws properly. A successful first phase will create room for teeth to find an eruption path without becoming severely displaced.
Between phases one and two, permanent teeth are left alone as they erupt. Retaining devices may or may not be recommended, depending on whether they interfere with eruption. It is best to allow the existing permanent teeth some freedom of movement.
Phase Two: Straightening Permanent Teeth
The goal of phase two is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with other teeth, the lips, cheeks, and tongue. When this equilibrium is established, teeth will function together properly. This second phase begins when all permanent teeth have erupted, and usually requires braces or aligners on all the teeth. Retainers are then worn after this phase to maintain the new alignment of each tooth.
Rad Orthodontics does not treat every child with the Two-Phase Orthodontic Treatment. We carefully examine each patient to determine if early treatment is desirable, and only schedule treatment if it is necessary. We often observe children for months and even years, before starting treatment because we believe in providing the right treatment, at the right time. If you think your child is ready for orthodontic work, please feel free to contact our office for more information.