Interceptive orthodontics is a branch of orthodontics that treats young children. It is also known as early orthodontic treatment. It can start when the child is as young as seven years old.
Why So Young?
There are several arguments in favor of early orthodontic treatment. First off, a child’s permanent teeth start growing in when they’re around six or seven. At that age, orthodontic problems, like crowding or a misaligned bite, become apparent. Many authorities recommend taking a child to the orthodontist for a screening when they’re seven years old for that reason.
A young child’s jaw is still growing, and the bones are soft and flexible. That makes correcting many orthodontic problems simpler. For example, some children have an abnormally narrow palate or upper jaw. That can cause problems like a cross bite or crowding; in severe cases, it can even interfere with breathing. Since narrow palates do not get better on their own, orthodontic intervention is necessary.
The palate consists of two bones that don’t fuse until the child is in their early or middle teens. Fixing a narrow palate in a preteen is relatively simple; they wear a retainer-like device called a palatal expander that gradually widens their jaw. Treatment generally takes three or six months. By contrast, an older teen or adult with a narrow palate has to undergo jaw surgery.
Reasons for Early Orthodontic Treatment
After the screening, the orthodontist will recommend treatment if he or she finds any of the following:
• Late loss of baby teeth and/or early loss of adult teeth
• Thumb sucking in a child over five
• An unbalanced look to the face
• Trouble chewing
• Breathing through the mouth
• Misaligned jaws
• Narrow palate
• Crowded, impacted or misplaced teeth
• Biting into the roof of the mouth or the cheeks
• Open bite
• Protruding front teeth
What is Maxillary Protraction?
Maxillary protraction is a technique used to treat underbites that are caused by a receding upper jaw. As with palatal expanders, it works best on young children, for their jaws are still growing. Treatment typically takes months, and the orthodontist will periodically examine the child to ensure their jaw is still growing normally.
Can Early Orthodontic Treatment Prevent the Need for Braces?
Unfortunately, no. In most cases, the child will still need braces. Interceptive orthodontics, however, can lessen the time the child will need to wear them. It will also reduce the likelihood of the child needing to have teeth extracted before getting braces.
Learn More During an Appointment
At Petty, Bielik and Burke Orthodontics, we offer a two-phase plan in which the child undergoes a treatment like maxillary protraction or palatal expansion when they’re little and gets braces a few years later. During a consultation at our office in Frankfort or Oak Lawn, we can examine your child’s mouth and come up with a treatment plan that is right for them. Early orthodontic treatment is often the key to a beautiful adult smile. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child.