Orthodontic Care for Young Children
Most parents don’t think about orthodontics for their children until they start to approach the teenage years. What these parents don’t realise is that having an orthodontist examine their children when they’re younger can help avoid the need for more extensive orthodontic treatment down the road. In many cases, the need for braces and other orthodontics is apparent at a fairly early age, and very simple procedures now will make future treatments much easier.
How Early Should We Visit an Orthodontist?
At Swords Orthodontics, we agree with the recommendation by the American Association of Orthodontists that every child should see an orthodontist by the time they are seven years old (or even earlier if a problem has become apparent).
In some kids, the need for orthodontics is obvious even earlier than that. For example, if your child used a bottle for an extended time period or had a tendency to suck their thumb, you may already notice that they have developed an abnormal bite or crooked front teeth. Additionally, your paediatric dentist, family dentist or HSE clinic may have already observed a potential concern on your child’s x-rays and recommended that you visit an orthodontic specialist.
Early Orthodontic Treatments
Early orthodontic treatments don’t necessary mean braces (although in some cases, braces in younger patients may be appropriate). Some of the other early treatments we use include:
Palatal Expanders – This treatment is used to expand or widen your child’s upper jaw (the “dental arch”) to treat an abnormal bite or treat or prevent the problem of crowding. It’s usually easy to see that the roof of a child’s mouth (the “palate”) may be too small to accommodate their permanent teeth as they come in or that the teeth don’t come together smoothly.
If there’s a problem with how the teeth bite together, a palatal expansion can help, and it tends to be easier to do it in young patients as their upper jaw is developing in two separate halves, which fuse together as they get older.
In the past, the typical solution to the problem of dental crowding would have been to extract some of the permanent teeth and follow up with braces to close any space left over. Using a palatal expander can reduce the chance of permanent teeth coming in crooked and can reduce the amount of future treatment needed or at least simplify it.
Sometimes a palatal expander is called a maxillary expander or RME for short (rapid maxillary expander).
Orthodontic Separators – Also commonly referred to as “spacers,” orthodontic separators use metal or rubber bands to create extra room between the teeth. These can be used to stop adult teeth from becoming impacted into baby teeth and avoid undesirable extractions of the baby teeth.
Space Maintainers – Sometimes children lose their baby tooth too early. Although many parents believe this is nothing to worry about (the teeth were going to fall out anyway, right?), the truth is that losing teeth too early can set your child up for orthodontic problems as they get older.
Your child’s other teeth may “drift” into the open space, and when the permanent teeth do try to come in, they can come in twisted or overlapping. They may even become impacted, which is when the tooth doesn’t fully come in and remains partially covered by the gum or doesn’t come through at all. Space maintainers are used to hold the other teeth in place so the permanent teeth have room to come into the mouth where they’re supposed to be.
Do All Children Need Early Orthodontic Treatment?
The good news is that most children will not require early orthodontic treatment. When we identify a child who does not currently need orthodontic care, we are happy to follow up with you later. However, we think it is better to have your child checked and rule out the need for intervention than to have adult teeth removed if that could have been avoided or go through years of much more extensive treatment at a later age.
“I’d rather tell you to come back in a year because we don’t need to do anything now than say I wish I’d seen you a year ago when we might have sorted this out simply,” says Dr. Stephen Murray, our orthodontic specialist.
Call Swords Orthodontics today to have your child checked.