Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Early Orthodontic Treatment: When and Why

Quite often parents tell me they didn’t get braces until they were fourteen, so why should their kid get treatment before that? That’s a fair question. Other people come up to me and ask me why kids nowadays get braces earlier now than before.

While saying that may be partially true, it’s definitely not the whole truth since most kids do not need braces before the eruption of all their permanent teeth. The objective of early orthodontic treatment is to intercept specific developing problems that I detect during an examination.

On a personal note, I was born in 1968, so my childhood took place in the 70’s when most people did not get braces early. Nevertheless, in 1977 when I was 9 my pediatric dentist told my mom I should see an orthodontist because it didn’t look like I was going to have enough space for my upper eye teeth to erupt. By the time I was 10 – in 1978 – I was wearing a headgear and some braces on my upper teeth. One year later, I had space for all my teeth and didn’t need braces again until I was 26.

When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.

Problems that should be addressed between ages 8-12 to avoid serious problems later include lack of space for eruption of all permanent teeth, crossbites (when one or some upper teeth fail to cover opposing lower teeth), and facial growth imbalances that cause severe overbites and underbites.

Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment are:
- Reducing the need for tooth removal by creating room for crowded erupting teeth and reserving space for unerupted teeth.
- Creating facial symmetry by directing jaw growth.
- Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth.
- Reducing the risk of premature tooth wear and chipping of the teeth.
- Elimination of habits that create bad bites.

Phase I treatment simplifies or reduces – but not necessarily eliminates – the need for future comprehensive orthodontic treatment. The benefits of early treatment are the creation of an environment that promotes unimpeded optimal eruption of the permanent dentition and more balanced facial growth. This will consequently provide more pleasant dental and facial esthetics and make any needed further correction in a second phase of care more comfortable and timely.