Orthodontics for Kids
It’s often easy to tell when an adolescent or an adult might need orthodontics. However, when it comes to orthodontics for kids, there are a lot of misconceptions about why they may need orthodontic treatment, as well as confusion about timing, treatment, and the purpose of orthodontics in general.
We at Hodge Orthodontics are here to clear it up for you a little. Let’s go through some of the most common questions and concerns that we get about pediatric orthodontics.
What is the purpose of orthodontics?
The purpose of orthodontic treatment is to create a healthy and functional bite. Your “bite” is comprised of two main parts: your jaw position and your tooth alignment. When your jaws and teeth do not line up correctly, it can become hard for your bite to function as nature intended. When your bite is aligned correctly, it promotes oral health which helps promote better general physical health. As a happy bonus, orthodontic treatment also brings about a healthy and attractive smile.
I thought orthodontic treatment was just cosmetic...
You’re not alone! While orthodontic treatment results in a symmetrical smile, there’s much more going on behind the scenes. Treatments like braces and retainers are meant to correct tooth alignment, create space in the palate or jaw, and align the jaws. When teeth and jaws are aligned, function improves which helps with speaking, biting, and chewing.
One of the reasons we’re drawn to a beautiful smile is because it’s an outward sign of good oral health and hygiene. Orthodontic treatment plays a larger part in healthcare than most people realize.
But how does orthodontic treatment help my kid?
Orthodontics for kids is usually focused on improving your child’s bite and chew as well as clear speech. When teeth and jaws function properly they also look nice, which has emotional benefits. Your child’s self-esteem and confidence may improve with the straightening and alignment of their teeth. Orthodontic treatment brings teeth, lips, and face into proportion.
Straight teeth are also easier to care for and therefore less prone to decay and disease. They are also less likely to cause injury.
But where did my child’s orthodontic problems come from?
While some orthodontic issues are “acquired” – developing over time as a result of thumb or finger sucking, mouth breathing, abnormal swallowing, poor nutrition, poor dental hygiene, or accidents – most are inherited. Sometimes an inherited problem can be exacerbated by an acquired orthodontic problem.
However, no matter the cause, your orthodontist will usually be able to treat the condition successfully. Here are some things you can look out for as signs of potential problems:
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Jaws that make sounds or shift
- Difficulty with clear speech
- Biting the inside of the cheek or roof of the mouth
- Facial imbalance
- Clenching or grinding of the teeth
If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your orthodontist.
Won’t my child’s teeth straighten as they grow?
This is possibly the most widespread misconception about pediatric orthodontics. People assume that because children lose their baby teeth, there’s no point in orthodontic treatment. Unfortunately, your child’s teeth will almost certainly not straighten out as they grow up. The space available does for permanent front teeth does not grow as we age. And as we age we develop permanent molars, leaving even less space for front teeth.
Most orthodontics for kids is focused on creating more space and correcting the bite so that permanent teeth can grow in correctly. Left untreated, orthodontic issues can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, broken front teeth and loss of bone tissue – the tissue that holds our teeth in place.
Is my child too young for orthodontic treatment?
There is no “right age” for children to receive orthodontic treatment. The American Association of Orthodontists suggests that children should be evaluated no later than age seven (7). Around age seven (7), children have a mix of both primary (baby) and permanent teeth. As this is when the child’s face and jaw are growing and permanent teeth are beginning to edge out baby teeth, it’s an ideal stage of development to gather information and assess possible future problems.
However, while there is no perfect time for a first checkup, there is a perfect time to begin orthodontic treatment once they have been evaluated as needing it.
The timing of the treatment will depend on the type of problem your child has and the child’s stage of dental development. Some patients only require tooth movement, while others may need help guiding the growth of their jaws. Many times, jaw correction is needed to compensate for a sucking habit or an abnormal swallowing pattern that that can re-shape the jaw bone.
Remember, an orthodontic check-up does not mean immediately beginning orthodontic treatment. Very few orthodontic problems will need to be treated at age seven (7). Most orthodontics take the “wait-and-see” approach unless the case is particularly severe. Instead, this check-up will allow you to understand how your child’s mouth is developing and begin to identify problems so you can plan for the future.
What types of treatments do you offer for kids?
During your child’s initial evaluation, we will determine if there are any problems that need to be addressed, such as:
- Open bite
- Gummy smiles
If we detect any issues, we may advise a Phase I treatment. Phase I treatments can include preventative, interceptive or modifying treatment. Orthodontic appliances may be recommended to prevent a problem, correct a current problem, or help shape your child’s jawbone growth. These appliances may include:
- Palate expanders
Whether your dentist has recommended orthodontic treatment or you have your own concerns, it’s never too soon to be proactive about your child’s health and wellbeing. To find out if your child is a candidate for early interceptive treatment, schedule a consultation.