Early Orthodontic Assessment

What is early orthodontic assessment?

Orthodontics sounds rather complicated but malocclusion just means that your child's teeth or jaws are not quite in the right place. For example, the teeth may be crowded together and look irregular or the upper teeth may stick out too far in front (protruding).

Early orthodontic assessment involves your dentist or specialist orthodontist reviewing your child's bite when the abnormality is first noticed. Early interception can help minimise some problems. Of course all cases are different and your dentist will give you personal advice.

Can orthodontic treatment be provided even though my child is not a teenager?

Until recently, most comprehensive orthodontic work has been provided once all the permanent teeth have come through or are about to come through. Certain problems such as tooth crowding are usually treated in this way. It is now widely recognised, however that certain discrepancies between the upper and lower teeth and jaws can be modified in some children if enough growth remains.

When does the main growth spurt occur in children?

The main growth spurt occurs in the year or so before puberty. This occurs earlier in girls than boys. Therefore there are some real advantages in assessing potential candidates before that time (at approximately 9 years of age). Sometimes, it may be considered appropriate to commence 'interceptive' procedures even earlier than this, to improve the natural development of the teeth and bite.

What about the shape of someone's face. Is that important?

Several different facial shapes can now be easily recognised by orthodontists. The way in which these different facial shapes grow and the sorts of treatment which would work best in each type of face are now more widely understood.

Are there any advantages in beginning orthodontic treatment early?

Commencing orthodontic treatment while your child is still growing and also still had some of their baby teeth left may sometimes increase the number of options for treatment.

Before commencing early orthodontic treatment however, your child must satisfy a number of criteria. It is important to weigh up if early treatment will reduce the need for later treatment or somehow make any later treatment more successful, or more stable.

For some people it will be a real advantage to commence at least the initial phase of treatment early, but for others, there will be no advantage at all in starting treatment before all the adult teeth have come through.

It should be remembered that teeth that are crowded or out of position are often more difficult to clean. As a result they are more likely to decay, and the gums are more likely to become inflamed.

It is important that problems are assessed early, so that opportunities aren't lost and a well-considered decision can be made for each individual. Your dentist will usually point out and discuss with you any potential problems with your child's tooth and jaw development. Please feel free to ask questions and even to ask for a referral to a specialist orthodontist, if necessary.

Source: Colgate Oral Care Brochure - Early Othodontic Assessment

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