The purpose of orthodontic treatment is to create a healthy, functional “bite,” which is part tooth alignment and part jaw position. When jaws and teeth line up correctly, they are able to function as nature intended. This promotes oral health and general physical health. That orthodontic treatment also brings about an attractive smile is an added bonus.
Orthodontic treatment will help your child bite and chew, and contribute to clear speech. When teeth function properly, they tend to look nice. An attractive smile is a pleasant side effect of orthodontic treatment, and can have emotional benefits. Self-confidence and self-esteem may improve as orthodontic treatment brings teeth, lips and face into proportion. Straight teeth are less prone to decay, gum disease and injury.
Most orthodontic problems are inherited. Some are “acquired,” developing over time by sucking the thumb or fingers, mouth breathing, dental disease, abnormal swallowing, poor dental hygiene, or early or late loss of baby teeth, accidents and poor nutrition. Sometimes an inherited orthodontic problem is complicated by an acquired problem. Whatever the cause, pediatric dentists and orthodontists are usually able to treat most conditions successfully.
Unfortunately, your child’s teeth will not straighten out as he or she grows. The space available for the permanent front teeth does not increase as one grows. For most people, after the permanent (12 year) molars come in, there is even less space available for the front teeth.
Untreated orthodontic problems can become worse, and more difficult to treat as a child gets older. Untreated problems may lead to tooth decay, gum disease, broken front teeth and loss of bone tissue that holds teeth in place.
There is not one “right” chronological age for orthodontic treatment. Ideally, children should have an orthodontic evaluation no later than the age of 7. But there is an ideal time to begin treatment for an individual who needs it. Timing is determined by the type of problem that the child has or may be developing, and the child’s stage of dental development. Some patients may require tooth movement only, while others may need help with guiding the growth of their jaws, or to correct a sucking habit or abnormal swallowing pattern that can re-shape the bone. Rely on your AAO orthodontist to advise you on the ideal time for your child to be treated.
Interceptive orthodontics addresses problems before they become more difficult to correct. The goal of an interceptive orthodontic treatment is to correct issues like jaw irregularities and tooth crowding by taking advantage of tooth growth to provide patients with the best possible results. Other issues like cross bite, overbite, under bite, and bad oral habits that lead to teeth misalignment can be corrected with interceptive orthodontics before they have to be fixed with extensive, expensive, and more invasive procedures in later years.
By identifying malocclusions early on, pediatric dentist can correct the issue before adult teeth set in and the jaw bones have fully developed. It is recommended to get an orthodontic assessment before seven years of age, right around the time adult teeth begin to erupt. Instead of removing permanent teeth to correct a bite, dentists can use interceptive orthodontics to guide teeth to grow properly and thus prevent unnecessary tooth removal.
Interceptive orthodontics is a phased treatment that begins before all permanent teeth have erupted. This is the phase where most of the work is done with the hope of reducing the duration of adult orthodontic care. When all permanent teeth have come through, successful interceptive orthodontics will have simplified or eliminated the need for any additional treatment.
The different knowledge and perspective of our elders, internet, friends and medical professionals all have a ton of different recommendations and timelines they swear by when it comes to giving up the bottle or pacifier, discouraging thumb sucking and pretty much every other things related to our children.
It can be overwhelming as a parent, while certain habits like finger and thumb sucking, biting or sucking on the lower lip, tongue thrusting, teeth grinding and extended pacifier use can interfere with the development of the teeth, jaw and face, there’s plenty you can do about it.
Our pediatric department specializes in the oral health and development of kids, so if a habit is mouth-related, we can provide guidance on when and how to try to stop harmful oral habits naturally and if that doesn’t work, we offer custom, habit-breaking appliances. These devices are either fixed or removable and they’re extremely effective in eliminating the unwanted behavior and keeping your child’s growth on track.
The appliances can stop habits when all else fails by either physically blocking the action or serving as a reminder not to do it.
They’re excellent for preventing kids from subconsciously falling back into habits while sleeping, not paying attention or during times of stress.
Breaking harmful oral habits decreases the likelihood of problems with the development of the facial bones and the positioning of the teeth.
Ideally, if your child doesn’t stop on their own, you should try to encourage children to stop sucking on their thumb, fingers, lips and pacifier by age three at the latest. However, we’re well aware of just how stubborn kids can be. Plus, while you can take a pacifier away, you’re stuck with a thumb, so it’s quite a bit harder. If your kid continues the habit beyond age four or five and behavioral tactics and home remedies haven’t worked, a habit-breaking appliance could be the way to go. Once the permanent teeth erupt, these habits can cause serious misalignment of the teeth and jaws and interfere with the development of their facial structure, meaning they could potentially need extensive orthodontic treatment or even surgery down the road.
After examining and evaluating your child and evaluating with you about their history, lifestyle and needs, we can decide on the best course of action. Luckily, we have an amazing orthodontic team where we discuss review each and every case thoroughly and we can create a custom-made habit-breaking appliance to fit your child’s mouth. It can be fixed or removable. Depending on the type of appliance, they either act as a barrier, completely preventing the action, or, in other cases, they don’t allow the thumb or the tongue to make contact behind the upper front teeth, which takes away the enjoyment and serves as a reminder for them.
Habit-breaking appliances aren’t painful but it is normal for kids to have some tongue soreness and speech difficulties at first. Once their tongue gets used to having to share space with the appliance, the discomfort will disappear and speech will return to normal. Sometimes, kids have trouble sleeping or get a little cranky for a few days following the start of treatment. This is because we’re taking away their go-to method of soothing themselves. We promise, it will pass and in the long term, their smile will thank you!