Most problems involving the alignment of your child’s teeth and the growth of their jaws can be identified by the time they are in first or second grade. That is why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have a check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. At this visit the orthodontist will carefully examine your child’s bite and assess the alignment and development of the teeth. The orthodontist will also look at the growth and relationships of the jaws, and in particular check for any shifts or dysfunction. It will also be determined if any premature tooth loss, habits, swallowing or breathing patterns are having an effect on your child’s bite.
Following this visit the orthodontist will indicate if any immediate preventative or interceptive orthodontic care is needed. In many circumstances no treatment is required right away and the child can be observed until it is the appropriate time for care.
However, some young children can develop habits such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and certain breathing patterns that can open or distort the bite. These habits are best dealt with by initiating care at a younger age. Interceptive treatment is also helpful when the top jaw is too narrow, not developing in harmony with the lower jaw, or an under-bite exists. Likewise, if a young child’s front teeth protrude excessively or are severely crowded a first phase of orthodontic care can be beneficial.
The objectives of interceptive treatment are to influence jaw growth, create more space for crowded teeth, help to correct harmful habits, and improve facial aesthetics. With interceptive treatment the need for extractions of permanent teeth can often be lessened. Interceptive treatment can also simplify the next phase of orthodontic care.