Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment, as problems are better treated at different ages. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. At this early age orthodontic treatment may not be necessary, but we can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.
Early (Phase I) Treatment (Ages 7-10)
Phase one treatment is sometimes needed between ages 7-10 to help ensure healthy growth and development. It usually lasts 6-12 months. The primary objective of Phase One treatment is to address significant skeletal problems to prevent them from becoming more severe. This is typically reserved for width discrepancies between the two jaws, bony asymmetries, or Class III growth tendency (the tendency for the lower jaw to outgrow the upper jaw).
How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all the permanent teeth around age 13)
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Your child continues to suck a thumb after age five
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
- Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or even at all
- Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early prevention benefit my child?
Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between them, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.
Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13. By the end of their teen years, the jaw bones stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, leaving little to no chance of extraction or surgery in the future.
If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, or you have been directed by your family dentist to visit the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule an appointment. Our team will provide your child with an initial exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child’s smile.
The majority of orthodontic treatment takes place during the adolescent years when all or most of the adult teeth have erupted.
You are never too old for orthodontic treatment. Modern orthodontic technology, including new treatment techniques, means that adults of any age can take steps to achieve a beautiful smile. If you have healthy gums and good bone structure around your teeth, you could be a good candidate for orthodontic treatment. We offer a variety of treatments that are designed for different age groups, including adults. Orthodontic treatment at later stages in life can dramatically improve your appearance and self-esteem as well as improving the health of your teeth and gums. Your new smile can begin today.