Early Orthodontic Care

It is never too early to keep an eye on your child's oral development. Your Pediatric Dentist/Orthodontist can identify malocclusions — crowded or crooked teeth or bite problems — and actively intervene to guide the teeth as they emerge in the mouth. Early orthodontic treatment can prevent the need for more extensive treatment later.


Q:What causes crowded teeth and other orthodontic problems?

A: Malocclusion is often inherited. Orthodontic problems also are caused by dental injuries, the early loss of primary teeth or habits such as thumb sucking, fingernail biting, or lip biting. Your Pediatric Dentist/Orthodontist can help your child break oral habits that may create orthodontic problems.

Q: Why is early orthodontic care important?

A: Early orthodontics can enhance your child's smile, but the benefits far surpass appearance. Pediatric orthodontics can straighten crooked teeth, guide erupting teeth into position, correct bite problems. Sometimes tooth extraction can be prevented by early intervention. Straight teeth are easier to keep clean and less susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease.

Q: What is early orthodontic treatment like?

A: Different orthodontic appliances work in different ways to benefit your child's dental health. Some are fixed; others are removable. Your Pediatric Dentist/Orthodontist will explain which appliance is best for your child, what the treatment can do, and how long it will take.

Q: When is the best time to begin orthodontics?

A: Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment. Beginning treatment at this time ensures the greatest result and the least amount of time and expense. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age seven. At this early age, orthodontic treatment may not be necessary, but vigilant examination can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.  

Q: Why is age seven considered the optimal time for screening?

A: By the age of seven, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding or gummy smiles. Timely screening increases the chances for an incredible smile.

Q: What care is recommended during orthodontic treatment?

A: As with any dental treatment, the more a child cooperates, the better the results. First, careful brushing and flossing keep the appliance and your child's health in top shape. (Removable appliances should be brushed each time the teeth are brushed.) Second, regular dental check-ups -- besides orthodontic appointments -- protect your child from tooth decay and gum disease. Third, prompt contact with your pediatric dentist and orthodontist when an appliance breaks will keep orthodontic treatment on-time and on-track.

Q: Can my child speak, eat, and play normally?

A:Your child can eat a normal diet except sticky foods (gum, caramels) and large, hard foods (peanuts, ice chips, popcorn). Some appliances alter speech, but most children adapt quickly and speak clearly within a day or two. Generally, children can safely run, jump, swim, and play with an orthodontic appliance. Check with your Pediatric Dentist/Orthodontist for specific advice on your child's activities.