When should my child see an orthodontist?
This is a question most frequently asked by parents. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have a check-up by an orthodontist by the age of 7. At this early age, orthodontic intervention may not be necessary, but Dr. Lam can carefully monitor growth and development and recommend treatment when it is ideal.
Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for screening?
By this age, the first adult molars have erupted establishing the back bite, and the front teeth (incisors) are erupting. Dr. Lam can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships during this time. An upper or lower jaw that is growing too much or not enough can be recognized at this age. A panoramic x-ray may be taken to see the other permanent teeth that have not yet erupted to discuss the likeliness of future crowding. Any missing permanent teeth and oral pathologies may be discovered from the radiograph as well.
Why should orthodontic treatment be started early?
Dr. Lam is conservative in her treatment approach with young children and will only intervene at an early age if necessary to prevent serious problems later. In some cases, positive orthodontic results can be achieved which would not otherwise be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing. Early interceptive treatment helps:
- Create facial symmetry and harmony by influencing jaw growth to prevent uneven tooth wear
- Create room for crowded, erupting teeth to reduce the need for permanent tooth removal later on
- Improve self-esteem and minimize the risk of trauma by retracting protruded front teeth
- Correct habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting to close openbites (upper and lower teeth do not touch) and reduce speech impediments
What is involved in early interceptive treatment?
Early interceptive treatment, or “Phase I” treatment, is a process that may involve orthodontic appliances (such as an expander) to correct jaw shape and redirect jaw growth toward an ideal relationship between the upper and lower jaws. It could involve space maintainers for unerupted teeth to prevent future crowding. Removable retainers, habit appliances, or partial braces may also be used depending on the problem.