You’ve seen the effects of untreated orthodontic issues.
The prevalence of malocclusion in children and adolescents is 56% globally. Crooked or misaligned teeth hamper a child’s ability to chew food and speak clearly. Sometimes, atypical facial and dental features can even impact the child’s psychological health. This is why orthodontics can be essential in the early years.
Pediatric orthodontists can play a major role in treating malocclusions. In the past, orthodontic treatments were considered for children above 11 years. With the evolution of orthodontic treatments, there has been a paradigm shift in the treatment approach. Currently, diagnosing and treating malocclusions in children at the earliest stage has become the norm. Early treatment carried out in children with primary or mixed dentition is known as interceptive orthodontics or phase 1 treatment.
Practicing early orthodontics is a great way to treat teeth and arch-related discrepancies in the child’s developing mouth before they turn into severe, lifelong problems. In some patients, phase 1 treatment is followed by a less-complex phase 2 treatment after the eruption of all permanent teeth. According to Dr. Chris Baker, a well-known pediatric dentist, pediatric orthodontics brings miraculous and amazing possibilities to the child and parents.
However, opinion is divided on the effectiveness of early orthodontic treatments. Pediatric dentists are unsure if early treatment is effective and necessary when treatment can be recommended later. Many feel that an early approach is not worth the extra cost, time, and energy involved.
In this article, we discuss reasons why an early orthodontic treatment should be considered.
Stable Treatment Results
Early identification and correction of malocclusion during the primary or mixed dentition period helps interrupt skeletal and dental imbalances. In the early stages of a child’s tooth development, the jaw bones are softer than at the adolescent stage. As bone is more elastic and flexible in a younger child, it is easy to direct its growth to where we want it to be. The procedures yield fast, effective, and stable results in young children.
Early Orthodontics Create Space to Accommodate Permanent Teeth
Early treatments help create sufficient space for a smooth eruption of permanent teeth. For instance, in the case of premature loss of primary molars, early orthodontic intervention maintains the space for the eruption of premolars. This treatment ensures that permanent teeth are well aligned and do not require lengthy and complex phase 2 treatment.
Early Orthodontics Can Correct Some Habits
Habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting for a prolonged time affect the growth and development of jaws and facial appearances. These habits lead to distorted growth of the jaws, an open bite, or protrusion of the tongue. Untreated tongue thrusting may also lead to lisping over certain sounds. Early intervention redirects the growth of the jaw to a more normal growth pattern. In contrast, correction of skeletal changes using fixed appliance therapy in adolescent stages takes a lot longer and can require ongoing maintenance, such as using a retainer.
Lower Risk of Trauma to Front Teeth
Children with protruded front teeth are vulnerable to injuries in the case of an accident or sport-related trauma. Children with damaged teeth often need to undergo root canal treatment and crown placement soon after their teeth have erupted in the oral cavity. Early intervention by aligning the protruded front teeth reduces the risk of damage in the event of an accident.
Easier Maintenance of Oral Health
Crowded teeth make it more difficult to clean between the teeth, allowing accumulation of food debris and tartar. This affects the health of your teeth and gums, leading to tooth decay and gum diseases. Early intervention to correct the crowding of teeth improves access to oral hygiene measures and helps maintain the health of your teeth and gums.
Lower Need for Complex Surgeries
Early interceptive treatment reduces the need for surgeries and extractions of permanent teeth. This also means the phase 2 treatment is simple and completed in less time. Less-complex treatments also result in financial benefits for the patient.
Orthodontics Can Improve Self-esteem
Well-functioning and healthy facial or dental features positively affect the emotional and social well-being of children. With the pervasiveness of bullying and social pressure, children need all the help we can give them to feel as confident as possible. Early orthodontic treatment improves smile confidence and overall well-being.
Treating malocclusion in a pediatric dental clinic means that the child receives treatment from their first dentist. Since the child is familiar with the clinic, it reduces the stress on the child and parents, and gives the dentist an opportunity to provide advanced services to the child. This also means better compliance for phase 2 orthodontic treatments. Treating malocclusion at its earliest allows the pediatric orthodontist to guide the skeletal and dental growth in children.
Early interventions provide children with a positive body image and reduce the need for complex phase 2 treatments and surgeries. They also result in stable treatment outcomes. If you’re keen to introduce orthodontics to your dental practice, consider the AOS Basic Straightwire Orthodontic course to see how you can offer your littlest patients complete care from brushing and flossing to the future of their oral health.
To learn more about our popular orthodontics courses for pediatric and general dentists, check out one of the upcoming events below.