Most children get braces between 9 and 14 years of age, however it is also appropriate for younger children to seek orthodontic consultation. Although some parents may be sceptical about the effectiveness of early orthodontics, research has shown that early orthodontic intervention and treatment can prevent future dental health problems later on in life.
In fact, the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends that all children have an orthodontic screening by age 7. Permanent teeth start to appear at age 6 or 7 and orthodontic problems will become more obvious at this point. Since bones are still growing at a young age, it is the ideal time to perform orthodontic assessment and evaluation.
Early orthodontic treatment has resulted in a change in the looks of adolescents. Looking back at yearbooks or prom pictures from the 1950 or 1960's, many smiles are framed with heavy metal braces. However, this sight is less common in high schools today as children get braces at an earlier age and the public is becoming more aware of early orthodontics.
Early orthodontics may be appropriate for children with crooked teeth and jaw misalignment. Several types of dental problems which are indicated for early orthodontics include:
Class I malocclusion
This condition is common with the patient having crooked teeth or teeth that protrude at abnormal angles. Early treatment of Class I malocclusion happens in two phases, with each phase typically being two years long.
Class III malocclusion
Class III malocclusion is more commonly known as underbite, and refers to the lower jaw being too big or the upper jaw being too small. Class III malocclusion requires early intervention as the treatment modifies and alters growth patterns. Hence, it is recommended to start at an early age of seven when the adult teeth start to come in to arrest the problem.
Crossbite happens when the upper and lower jaw are mismatched in alignment. Early treatment may help this condition especially in cases when the jaw has to shift laterally to fix the problem. Correcting a crossbite involves the use of palatal expander to widen the upper jaw which helps to properly align the teeth.
Crooked baby teeth may create problems when adult teeth start to erupt. For children with full mouths, performing extraction of the baby teeth and sometimes permanent premolars can help the adult teeth to erupt in the proper position and grow straight.
Early intervention is not applicable for all dental conditions. Research suggests that there is little benefit to early Orthodontics for Class II malocclusion otherwise known as overbite. Treatment for Class II malocclusion should be deferred till adolescence. Given the complexities of dental conditions and the intricacies of treatment, it is best to consult an Orthodontist for an individualised and customised treatment plan.