Many parents think that they will not have to worry about orthodontics for their children until they are in their early teens and lose all their baby teeth. In many cases diagnosis and treatment for serious issues needs to begin much earlier than the teen years to achieve an acceptable result. In fact the American Association of Orthodontics and the American Dental Association recommend a consultation at age 7 for all children. Haven't had a consultation for your child yet? That's OK, any time after 7 is great time for your first visit and consultations are always free!
Why Early Orthodontic Care Is Important
At age 7 children reach an important milestone in their dental development. For most children their first molars have erupted and they are losing their first baby teeth and seeing their four front teeth on the top and the bottom come in. You know that stage when your kids have that adorable missing front tooth! This is the ideal age when an Orthodontist can diagnose both bite issues and diagnose permanent tooth crowding.
This is also a great time for patients to have their exam from a cooperation perspective as typically patients this age are excited, and nervous of course, about the prospect of getting braces. Normally kids do great with the new patient exam and any treatment needed as it is typically a fun, easy, pain free dental experience. This positive dental experience builds trust that dental visits can be fun and can help your child be comfortable with the orthodontic team and their general dentist.
Most importantly at this age kids are growing and changing so much we can accomplish things that can not be accomplished when patients are older. Particularly the upper jaw or maxilla is not fused at this age. By far the most common issue orthodontists see in this age group is a narrow upper jaw. There are many causes for a narrow maxilla including genetics, thumb sucking, poor tongue function and posture, and airway/breathing issues among others. Around age 7 is the ideal time to widen the upper jaw with an expander because the 2 halves of the upper jaw are not fused. As children grow the maxilla slowly fuses and the opportunity to widen the upper jaw is lost!
How do Expanders Work
Expansion of the upper jaw is the most common aspect early treatment. Although widening the upper jaw sounds like it may be painful it is an incredibly easy and pain free process when done correctly. Because the bone in the upper jaw are made up of two separate halves at this age the application of light gradual pressure can significantly increase the width of the upper jaw. Expansion can be life changing treatment for children in need of Phase I or Early Treatment.
Some of the advantages of early expansion treatment include correction of crossbites a common bite issue that can cause permanent dental and facial asymmetry, improve or eliminate severe crowding, and improvement of tongue space allowing for better tongue function. Recent research suggests that expansion can be a vital part of early treatment for sleep apnea and some other sleep disorders. At Senestraro Family Orthodontics we use state-of-the-art printed metal expanders. That means just a quick and easy 3D scan of the upper jaw and our lab 3D prints your expander custom printed to your mouth. Impressions, separators and fitting bands have all been from the process making the process pain free and easy on your kiddo!
Incredible Expander Technology
As an all digital and 3D printing office we offer cutting edge expander technology in our office. The best part about this technology and expander is how easy it makes the experience for your child! It starts with a 3D scan with our Itero scanner. Kids love to watch their teeth and mouth appear on the screen as we use a small wand that takes 20 images per second to build a virtual model in real time...complete in only 2 minutes! We also use 3D printed metal expanders. What does this all mean for our little patients? No more goopy impressions, no more uncomfortable separators or the need to fit bands around the teeth, just a single fun, easy, pain free appointment to get started and another for delivery.
Will my Child get Braces during early treatment?
While many patients in early treatment need expansion, most will have some limited braces on the permanent teeth in addition to the expander. This is an important part of phase I treatment as teeth are often crowded and in crossbite when the upper jaw is narrow. Usually a large space will form between the front teeth during expansion and the braces are used to close that space and redistribute space to where it will be needed for future eruption of permanent teeth. Although the goals of early treatment are usually functional to correct bites and reduce future crowding, we straighten the teeth and improve the smile as well. This gives some children struggling with the appearance of their teeth or peer teasing a new confidence to smile and be themselves!
Of course not all children in need of early treatment get the same treatment. At Senestraro Family Orthodontics every patient has a detailed examination, diagnosis, and treatment plan designed by Dr. Seth along with the patient and family to meet your unique needs and goals.
Why Early Treatment?
Dentists and orthodontists have found that early treatment of some orthodontic problems means that a dental issue does not become more serious. For example, it is common for children to have a top jaw that is smaller than a bottom jaw. If orthodontic intervention and diagnosis takes place at the correct time, the child can be fitted with an appliance that will gradually expand the upper jaw. Over time, the child would have a top jaw that fits perfectly with the lower jaw.
Other common problems that children might have include underbites and crossbites. Underbites happen when the child's lower teeth sit in front of the upper teeth. Crossbites are usually when the upper is too narrow causing the bite to gradually move to one side and become asymmetric. This often happens in children who sucked their thumbs. Also, children can have too many teeth. They might be missing permanent teeth and not have enough teeth, as well. The teeth might be too far apart.
Early treatment for teeth and jaw problems might include a removable appliance. Appliances work to move teeth gradually. They can also change a jaw's position or hold the teeth in place. In some cases, the child can have baby teeth removed, so that the permanent teeth have a place to grow.
What If My Child Does Not Need Any Early Treatment
At Senestraro Family Orthodontics the majority of children in the 7 to 8 year old range who have a consultation are not recommended to have any early treatment, also known as Phase I treatment. They simply enter our pre-orthodontic guidance program consisting of easy 6 month check ups appointments to monitor growth and development. There are many advantages to this complimentary service. After regular visits to our office your child will feel comfortable with our team and confident to start treatment when the time is right. The regular visits also help to detect and correct problems with eruption of permanent teeth common in growing patients. Manu times the simple removal of a baby tooth can help our patients in observation avoid serious and expensive complications as teenagers. Lastly, we can accurately determine the ideal time to start treatment and help your family plan for the start of your child's braces journey.
If you have questions about your child's teeth or their bite, give Senestraro Family Orthodontics a call today at (503) 446-5815. We can answer questions about early orthodontic care.