Let’s wind the clock back fifteen years. Back then, it would have been an odd sight to see an eight-year-old with a full set of braces, but as time has passed, orthodontic treatment for patients ten and younger has become a rising trend known as interceptive orthodontics. It’s a treatment that involves mapping out problems with crooked teeth and jaw issues and correcting them before they can gain a foothold. We’ve mentioned previously that genetics can be a large factor in jaw shape and how a person’s teeth will develop, and modern medicine has allowed us to treat these issues much earlier.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should be screened no later than seven, in order to assess a plan and determine what age would be best to start treatment. Assessing the child does not mean treatment will begin anytime soon. The result of the assessment could simply conclude that it’s best to begin treatment when the child is a teenager. So, even if you’re a skeptic about young children needing orthodontic care, getting your child assessed is still worth considering.
So how is early treatment helpful?
Children who have an underbite or crossbite can benefit greatly from early treatment by means of palatal expansion which helps correct the jaw as the child develops. This treatment is designed to be complementary with the child’s natural development, and addressing these issues early can actually prevent extended treatment or even surgery later in life. Similarly, extraction, the process of pulling baby teeth to make room for the new adult teeth, increases the chances that the adult teeth will develop without any crowding. These treatments have given a great deal of credibility to interceptive orthodontics among parents and doctors alike.
And then there’s full-on braces placed on children ten or younger, and that’s where much of the controversy is situated. Studies have shown that applying braces too early can simply lead to adding additional years of treatment, or simply require that braces are needed again during the late teens or early twenties, as development completes and teeth have shifted back. But those same studies have also shown that early treatment for severe anterior crossbites prevent damage to the teeth and jaw later in life. The complicated truth is that braces are an acceptable treatment for young children on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, we at Maple Orthodontics think the parent should decide, but there’s nothing wrong with getting an assessment to help make an informed decision.
If you’d like to know more about interceptive treatment and braces for young kids, please feel free to contact your local Invisalign dentists in Gahanna, Westerville, and Johnstown, Ohio. You can also contact us at Maple Orthodontics here.