As a parent, you’ll always want to ensure your child’s teeth are treated with the best care. You might think that you have to wait until your child is a teenager to start orthodontic treatment, but in fact it’s common to start treatment earlier on. This is not only for cosmetic reasons, but to address any discomfort or other mouth issues caused by poorly aligned teeth.
When should you start orthodontic treatment for your child?
Every child is unique, and therefore a consultation with an orthodontist will determine when treatment should start. Typically, a child’s permanent teeth begin to come through at around the age of 6 or 7 years, and this is when orthodontic problems tend to first be noticed. Even if you think your child’s teeth seem fine, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with an orthodontist, so they can assess treatments your child might need, either now or in the future.
What is interceptive orthodontic treatment for children?
Orthodontic treatment in young children is known as “interceptive orthodontics”. This early intervention, while your child’s jaws and teeth are still developing, means that conditions such as teeth crowding are easier to correct. It helps “guide” the natural growth of your child’s jaws to make it as good as possible.
Expanding a child’s upper dental arch creates more space. This often avoids the need to extract one or more permanent teeth later. Once all the permanent teeth have come through, braces can help position them correctly.
How might interceptive orthodontic treatment help your child?
Interceptive treatment can address jaw growth problems, by creating enough space on the arches to accommodate the permanent (adult) teeth.
Starting treatment early allows to make the most of the natural growth of the jaws, just guiding it to achieve a proper “bite”.
This type of treatment is beneficial if:
- Baby teeth were lost earlier or later than normal
- There is difficulty chewing or biting
- Eating mouth open
- Thumb sucking habit later than 4 years old
- Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose
- Upper front teeth interfere with lip closure
- The jaws click and/or shift
- Teeth are crowded and blocked out
- Teeth don’t meet correctly
How will your child be involved with their treatment?
Dr Heintz has a specialist interest in working with young patients. If your young child requires interceptive orthodontic treatment, they will wear a “removable device” (ie not fixed to their teeth). This is custom made for your child following an impression (cast) of their jaws. To make wearing the device more fun and acceptable to her young patients, Dr Heintz asks them to choose their favourite colour, and they can also add glitter or playful images to be embedded in their device.
We believe that when your child is fully involved in their treatment, and understands what is happening, they will get the best results; they may be given a special key to “activate” the expander themselves.
What are the benefits of starting orthodontics early on?
Children who receive interceptive orthodontics at a young age usually still need treatment with braces or a removable orthodontic appliance when they are older, but early intervention helps to shorten and simplify any later treatments. This is known as two-phase treatment. Our children’s orthodontist, Dr Marie Heintz, can provide a full assessment to advise the best treatment approach for your child. Treatments can help to:
- Guide the growth of your child’s jaws
- Regulate the width of their upper and lower dental arches
- Reduce the risk of injury to protruding teeth
- Eliminate thumb or finger sucking, which can lead to an open bite
- Improve some speech problems
- Improve your child’s confidence in their personal appearance.
Making an appointment with a children’s orthodontist
A consultation is the best way of exploring the different orthodontic treatments for your child. To find out more or make an appointment at our London clinic, please call 020 7244 4200.