Orthodontic Treatment for Children: Why Early Intervention is Key

Most kids will have some permanent teeth and baby teeth by the time they are 6 or 7. This is why it’s recommended that all children have their first checkup with a Melbourne orthodontist by age 7. To have the best chance of success in correcting problems, early intervention is key.

First Orthodontic Checkup

A child’s first visit to the orthodontist will result in one of three outcomes:

  • No intervention or treatment will be necessary
  • Future treatment may be needed, so the child will be periodically monitored
  • A problem is identified that necessitates early intervention.

As the American Association of Orthodontists notes, your orthodontist can identify issues during a first checkup. Early intervention allows us to eliminate the source of a potential problem, in addition to “steering” the growth of the jaw and facial bones in some cases. We can also create more space in the jaw for incoming permanent teeth through early intervention.

An orthodontist can take advantage of a child’s natural growth patterns to guide outcomes in the jaw and palate. Early interventions can reduce or eliminate the need later on for teeth to be extracted, oral surgery, or orthodontic treatment as an adult. An early intervention plan may also guide the child’s development in such a way that treatment with braces in their teen years will be more successful, if needed.

Why Early Treatment is a High Priority

A child’s facial structures are more malleable between the ages of 5 and 11. If early intervention is needed, these years are the best time to do it, before a more serious problem can develop. Since a child is still growing and developing, an experienced orthodontist can guide the trajectory of the jaw. This can lead to better aligned permanent teeth, by reducing crowding, for example.

It’s a misconception that orthodontists cannot treat problems before all of a child’s permanent teeth have erupted. We have a variety of treatment strategies and tools that can help guide the development of teeth, the jawbone, the palate, and other structures in the mouth.

One example of an early intervention treatment would be a palate expander. If a child’s palate is too narrow, it can lead to a crossbite or overcrowding of the permanent teeth. A palate expander is a metal device that attaches to the back teeth on the upper arch. The device slowly and gradually expands the child’s palate to make more room in the mouth and prevent future problems. Note that we always try to limit early intervention treatments to a year or less here at Melbourne Orthodontics.

How Long Does Early Intervention Last?

Early intervention treatments usually begin when a child still has some of their baby teeth. Even if it is believed that the child may need braces in their teen years, they may be prescribed a custom-fitted retainer to wear. As we mentioned above, active treatment will usually last less than a year. We will usually suggest regular follow up appointments, at least until all of the permanent teeth are present, and we can determine if we need to move to the next phase of treatment.

Early intervention can greatly reduce the length of treatment. This secondary treatment phase is almost always shorter and more effective if we’ve had a successful early intervention.

Learn More About Orthodontic Treatment

Kids should come in for their first appointment with a Melbourne orthodontist around age 6 or 7 at the latest. That’s how we will have the best chance of identifying a problem early. Most children don’t require early intervention, but the only way to know for sure is by bringing them in for that initial checkup. To schedule an appointment, call our office today.