Early Prevention

Early Orthodontic Treatment for Children

What is the difference between early orthodontic treatment and regular orthodontic treatment, and why might my child need early treatment? How will early treatment benefit my child in the long run?

Most of the early treatment Dr. Al Khafaji recommends is orthopedic in nature (not braces). Orthopedic treatment is limited to when a child is growing. It is the ideal time to correct skeletal abnormalities like overbites, underbites, cross bites, and severe crowding.

In most cases, Dr. Al Khafaji’s early treatment will prevent the need for the extraction of permanent teeth and jaw surgery. Dr. Al Khafaji has found that placement of braces for early treatment is usually not needed because braces are the most effective when most or all of the permanent teeth are erupted.

These are just a few of the questions surrounding the topic of early orthodontic treatment for children. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven. At this point, the orthodontist will evaluate whether your child will need orthodontic treatment.

Early treatment (also known as Phase-One) typically begins around age eight or nine. Phase-Two will begin around age 11 or older. The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as underbite. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly and lessens the chance of extractions in the future.

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 his or her permanent teeth in around age 13)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Your child continues to suck his or her 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 the teeth, 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 have lost all their baby teeth by age 13. By the end of their teen years the jaw bones will harden and no longer continue to grow. Once growth has slowed down or stopped, orthopedic procedures are no longer effective.

Orthodontic treatment on older teens and adults may take more time and require tooth removal or jaw surgery. One of the great benefits of early treatment is that it affords the foundation for a healthy stable bite and often eliminates the need for extractions or jaw surgery when you’re older.

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.