An Overview of Early Orthodontic Treatment in Pediatric Patients

Interceptive Orthodontics and Kids’ Dental and Overall Health

Nearly every parent wants to know the age their child will need orthodontic treatment. After all, it is a major financial investment, and parents want their children to have healthy, straight smiles. The truth is that there is no one age that orthodontic treatment begins. Instead, treatment is based on the dentitional age of each child. While there is an average age that children begin to exfoliate primary teeth and develop permanent teeth, there are always young people who fall outside of this range and may need orthodontic care earlier or later than expected.

There are countless benefits of getting orthodontic treatment at an early age. Early intervention, or interceptive orthodontics, typically correlates for adolescents with mixed dentition who are in an active growth phase. Here are some of the top reasons why early orthodontics can benefit your pediatric patients.

Main Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment to Pediatric Dental Patients

1. It catches potentially complex issues early.

Interceptive orthodontics is beneficial for young people because it helps correct issues such as crossbites or jaw discrepancies that can create more serious problems down the road. Since the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7, it is a great opportunity for dentists to inform parents on their children’s dental growth and development. 

When adolescents receive an early evaluation, it gives parents a chance to process the information and make informed decisions with the dentist on their child’s orthodontic needs. Both parents and dentists need to have a shared vision so that if early treatment is necessary, it happens at optimal timing. 

2. It helps prevent long-term problems.

Optimal timing for orthodontics in younger patients can change the trajectory of their orthodontic journeys. When a general or pediatric dentist understands the foundation of orthodontics and development, they can identify when their young patients need orthodontic care in their transitional dentition. 

Timing is one of the biggest considerations because dentists don’t want to start too late or too early. Therefore, how can a dentist know the appropriate time to begin early orthodontic treatment? 

Studies show the optimal time to begin orthodontic treatment is during a growth spurt because treatment is most effective. Soft tissue and muscles are malleable and can easily be corrected during this time. Expansion of the upper arch is more favorable in growing children compared with older teens who may require surgical expansion. 

Recommended Early Orthodontic Treatment

It is difficult for parents to understand that their child may need early orthodontics even though they have several baby teeth left. This is why taking orthodontic courses can help dentists learn to explain to parents how interceptive orthodontics is beneficial to prevent future problems. 

Typical early orthodontic treatment includes but is not limited to the correction of:

  • Crossbites
  • Underbites and overbites
  • Toxic habits like thumb- or finger-sucking
  • Extractions of primary teeth
  • Anterior open bites

Pediatric and general dentists who want to practice orthodontics can benefit from taking orthodontic courses with the American Orthodontic Society to learn more about early treatment. By understanding the foundation of orthodontics, you can easily diagnose, recommend, and explain treatment options to your patients. 

Benefits of Early Orthodontics in Class I and Class II malocclusions

Early orthodontic treatment can correct numerous types of orthodontic problems in early childhood. Early orthodontic treatment is the future of orthodontics because it is preventive and effective. Research shows that correcting a Class I malocclusion early on can prevent problems with permanent dentition. In fact, some patients can avoid phase II treatment altogether by treating simple problems early on. If phase II is still necessary, early orthodontic treatment can still decrease the overall time of comprehensive treatment. 

Examples of other early orthodontic benefits include improving a patient’s self-esteem, allowing permanent teeth to properly erupt, and avoiding impaction.

Early orthodontics extends beyond the mouth.

We know that there is a direct link between airway and sleep problems and a narrow upper palate. If a young patient has prolonged habits like thumb-sucking or pacifier use, it can shift the palate from a U-shape to a V-shape. This narrow shape affects the oral cavity by pushing the upper teeth outward and can affect speaking, eating, and sleeping. 

Correcting a narrow palate with upper arch expansion also helps widen the upper mouth, has cosmetic benefits on the profile of the face, and opens the airway to encourage better sleep patterns. 

Pediatric and general dentists who want more than just one several-hour course can invest in comprehensive ortho courses with the American Orthodontic Society. It is here they will dive into the foundations of orthodontics and malocclusion through didactic and live hands-on instruction to understand how early treatment can impact a patient’s oral health and orthodontic journey.

To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.

1st Session: April 26-28, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

July 19-21, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

August 23-24, 2024

AOS Institute
1785 State Highway 26
Grapevine, Texas 76051

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