Orthodontic treatment can improve the appearance, health and function of the teeth and jaws. Orthodontic means “straight teeth”. It is the branch of dentistry that deals with diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems in the alignment of teeth and jaws.
Ask for a free consultation with Dr Jayson McNaughton to access your child’s orthodontic needs.
Traditionally orthodontic treatment took place during late childhood or in the early teens, once the permanent teeth had come through, but you may have noticed that even quite young children have orthodontic appliances. This is because early treatment can sometimes be very helpful, correcting problems that would otherwise require lengthier treatment when a child is older.
How Soon Can a Child Have Orthodontic Treatment?
Your child can have an early orthodontic assessment around age 6 or even sooner and our dentist will recommend this assessment if appropriate. At this age, treatment can take advantage of a young child’s jaw and tooth development that takes place between ages five and 12.
What Are the Advantages of Having Early Orthodontic Treatment?
Early orthodontic treatment is carefully planned to coincide with a child’s growth spurts and is designed to help guide the growth of their jaws at a stage when their bones are more malleable. Providing treatment at this early age can help create more space for a child’s adult teeth and may avoid tooth extractions that are sometimes necessary when a child has orthodontic treatment during their teens. By this age, their jaws are almost fully grown and are not as malleable, and sometimes it’s necessary to remove permanent teeth to create sufficient space for teeth to be realigned.
Which Orthodontic Appliances Can Be Used in Early Orthodontics?
There are several different appliances that may be helpful depending on the problems requiring correction. One appliance that is frequently used is called a palatal expander and can be useful in correcting problems caused by a child sucking their thumb or finger.
What Is a Palatal Expander and How Does It Work?
Thumb or finger sucking can cause the upper jaw to become elongated and narrowed if the habit continues beyond infanthood and into early childhood. This can affect a child’s bite and may lead to problems with overcrowding. A palatal expander helps to widen the upper palate, creating more space within the jaw so a child’s adult teeth are more able to erupt into the correct places, without becoming overcrowded or overlapping and will bite together correctly. It consists of an acrylic plate that fits over the upper palate and which is held in place by clasps fitted around the teeth. The acrylic plate is fabricated in two halves and is held together by a special screw. The palatal expander is gradually widened by turning a screw in the acrylic plate, forcing the upper palate to expand and for new bone to be created as the growth of the upper jawbones are carefully guided into the correct positions. Other appliances are designed to correct problems with tongue thrusting, retraining the tongue so it is correctly positioned in the mouth. These may be used in conjunction with a series of exercises that a child must complete each day.