Why It's So Important to Start Orthodontic Treatment Early

Orthodontic treatment can give your child a beautiful-looking smile, and straighter teeth can also help your child enjoy better oral health, all the way through the adult years. When most people think about orthodontic treatment, they think of braces. But the fact is, that’s just one type of treatment an orthodontist provides. At Millennium Park Orthodontics, we offer early orthodontic treatments (sometimes called interventional orthodontics) too. Many times, interventional treatment can shorten the amount of time your child will need to wear braces — and, sometimes, it can eliminate the need for braces entirely. Here’s what’s involved in early orthodontics and why it’s really important to make sure your son or daughter sees the orthodontist at an early age.

Treatment starts earlier than you probably think

The American Academy of Orthodontists says you should take your children for an initial office visit by their seventh birthday. That’s because by the time they're seven years old, their jaws have developed to the stage at which the orthodontist can begin to identify potential problems in their earliest stages. And since children's jaws and teeth still have plenty of growth ahead of them, it’s the ideal time to intervene and provide treatment that can guide that development. 

During an initial visit, Dr. Howard Spector will evaluate your child’s teeth and jaws, bite pattern, and other factors. If everything looks good, he won’t recommend any interventional treatment. But if he sees a problem, he may do one of two things:

Some of the common conditions treated with early interventional orthodontics include:

If your child needs treatment, Dr. Spector works closely with you and your child to explain your options so you understand the advantages of early care.

Types of early orthodontic treatment

Dr. Spector offers an array of early orthodontic treatment options, each of which can be customized for your child's unique needs. Many alignment problems begin with overcrowding, a situation where essentially your child's mouth is just too small to accommodate all of the teeth in normal, straight alignment. When your child's jaw (upper, lower, or both) is small, it can also throw off the bite balance, resulting in long-term problems like uneven tooth wear, chronic headaches and jaw pain, or temporomandibular joint disorder. To treat overcrowding, Dr. Spector might recommend an expander, which is a special appliance designed to help your child's jaws grow to accommodate the adult teeth when they come in.

If enlarging the jaw isn't the best option, Dr. Spector may recommend extractions instead, including extractions of baby teeth, to make room for adult teeth that are ready to erupt. Other treatment options can include functional appliances to realign the upper and lower jaws or treatments to correct tongue-thrusting and other habits that can push teeth outward.

What to expect during your visit

Your child's first visit is simple and straightforward, but it's not uncommon for a child to be a little nervous. Before the appointment, make sure your child understands that there won't be any treatments performed; it's just a time for the orthodontist to do an evaluation. The visit is painless and doesn't involve needles or drills. During the visit, your child will sit in a dental chair while Dr. Spector does an evaluation of your child’s teeth and the way he or she bites. He might also take X-rays and pictures. Once the evaluation is complete, he’ll sit down with you and your child to discuss his findings and go over our recommendations. And, of course, there will be plenty of time for you and your child to ask questions. 

Even if your child's teeth look straight now, they might still need orthodontic care to prevent issues that can arise once the adult teeth come in. Having early orthodontic care at Millennium Park Orthodontics is one of the best things you can do to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and a beautiful smile. To find out if your child could benefit from early orthodontic treatment, contact the practice today.

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