Disclosure:: This post is sponsored and authored by Dr. Melanie Fowler.
Why Your Child May Need Braces Earlier Than You Thought
Does it seem like kids are getting braces earlier these days?
If you said yes, then you would be correct! As a practicing orthodontist, I see children as early as six years old in my office. There are many reasons to have an early orthodontic evaluation, but not everyone is aware of them.
Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits. Children who have protruding teeth are especially vulnerable to the risk of trauma to their front teeth, either by fracturing the teeth or even knocking them out. In the age of up-close and personal photography, simply wanting a straighter smile for your child is a valid reason to seek an early orthodontic opinion. We know that children’s self-confidence can be tied to how they perceive their appearance, and their smile is a critical part of that. In fact, seven out of ten Americans report feeling self-conscious of their teeth, while 57% cover their mouth when they laugh due to insecurity about their teeth.
The importance of orthodontic intervention early on is key.
Orthodontic intervention, especially early in childhood, can help ease concerns about poorly positioned teeth and cosmetics, but more importantly, provide interventional treatment to promote a good bite and good jaw development as the child grows.
Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, and by the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children receive an orthodontic evaluation by the age of seven, even if they are being followed regularly by a general dentist.
A two-phase orthodontic process can be beneficial.
Some children that I see greatly benefit from a process called two-phase orthodontic treatment, which separates the longer traditional therapy into two stages, an earlier stage for ages 6-9 and a later phase around ages 11-14. It is a specialized process that combines tooth straightening and skeletal, even facial, changes. This is also called Dentofacial Orthopedics and orthodontists are specially trained to handle these types of treatments. The main purpose of two-phase treatment is to maximize the opportunity to accomplish the ideal healthy, functional, and aesthetic result that will remain stable throughout the child’s life. Putting off treatment can result in a need for more invasive treatment later in life that may not completely fix the child’s smile.
Early treatment is most effective for achieving lasting results.
The goal of Phase One treatment is to help the jaw develop in a way that will accommodate all of the permanent teeth and improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together. Children often exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. An upper jaw that is growing too much or is too narrow can be recognized at an early age. Planning now can save your child’s smile (and your pocketbook) later. Phase One usually involves palate expanders, limited braces, headgear, and other appliances.
At the end of the first phase of treatment, teeth are not in their final positions. This will be determined and accomplished in the second phase of treatment. The goal of the Second Phase is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. When this equilibrium is established, the teeth will function together properly. Phase Two usually involves full upper and lower braces.
So, if you’ve been wondering about your children’s teeth, don’t wait! Early orthodontic evaluations are quick and easy, and usually provided free of charge by the orthodontist!
If your child has any of the following symptoms, they may need early braces::
- Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Your child continues sucking his or her thumb or pacifier after age five
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
- Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or even at all
- Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
Learn more about Dr. Melanie Fowler and her practice using the links below.
About the author::
Dr. Melanie Fowler is a board-certified orthodontist with offices in Lafayette and New Iberia. She has owned her own practice for more than fifteen years, and is also a Clinical Associate Professor at the LSU School of Dentistry Department of Orthodontics in New Orleans. She has a passion for teaching and is the course director for the Orthodontic Journal Club and manages Orofacial Anomaly clinic patients with the residents. She is active in the American Association of Orthodontists, is a past President of the Louisiana Association of Orthodontists, and past Director on the Board of the Southwestern Society of Orthodontists. Melanie currently serves as the 2020-2021 President of Junior League of Lafayette. She is also a graduate of Leadership Lafayette XXIV and is a past recipient of a Top 20 under 40 award. Melanie is married to Dr. Shane Fowler and the proud mother of thirteen-year-old Georgia and eleven-year-old Glen. Her loving parents and in-laws, Robert and Paula Merrill and Ken and Cheryl Fowler of Lafayette, have taught her love of family and community, and continue to support her in every way.