One of the common misconceptions about orthodontic treatment is that most parents believe that their child needs to be at least 12-13years old before he/she is ready for braces treatment. In fact there is no such thing as a minimum age required to start braces. Orthodontic treatment is indicated on a case by case basis depending on the condition and compliance of the child.
The common problems that most parents are able to spot in their children are protruding, teeth, crooked teeth and an underbite. Even if your child has straight teeth, an orthodontic check-up may reveal subtle problems with jaw growth and erupting adult teeth.
Key Age of 7 years old
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends a check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than the age of 7 years. Please do not be alarmed as in majority of cases, the orthodontist will reveal that your child’s teeth and bite are fine. Even if a problem is detected early on, they may recommend monitoring the child’s growth and development before intervening. In a few cases, orthodontic treatment may need to be indicated at an early age.
What to look out for?
There is a long list of problems that can and/or should be corrected earlier on. If you notice that your child has difficulty biting or chewing, have lost their baby tooth earlier or too late or if he or she has speech impediments, it is worth obtaining an orthodontic consult. Other problems such as mouth breathing, sucking their thumbs after five years old or shifting of the jaw during opening or closing of their mouths may need to be examined too.
Early treatment, also known as interceptive orthodontics is important for certain teeth conditions. Although not common, early treatment can be used to intercept and prevent a serious problem from developing. In some cases it may even make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. A few benefits of interceptive orthodontics are encouraging jaw growth to the correct proportions, preventing worsening of protruding teeth and avoiding damage to the gums and teeth due to incorrect bite.
Timing is everything
Early braces treatment is akin to early childhood education. Why do we start early childhood education even before a child can read or write but wait until all baby teeth are lost before we consider orthodontic treatment? There is no such thing as a minimum age for braces. In fact it is determined on a case to case basis. If you have a gut feeling that something may not be right about your child’s teeth, then do consult a specialist.
The most important part of interceptive orthodontics is to prevent damage to teeth and gums. One good example is a tooth in crossbite. If a lone-standing tooth is in crossbite, it may cause damage to the gum support for that tooth and the adjacent teeth. If this condition is not detected early on, gum damage may have already occurred and it might be too late. Such cases can be treated fairly easily using braces within three months.
It has been reported that a pleasing smile will improve confidence and in turn, improve the quality of life for an individual. This matter is true not only for adults, but for growing teens and even so, young children. Children in primary schools start to feel conscious about their ever-changing physical self and hence may feel shy about their smiles. We have had some children who are subjected to teasing and even bullying over their ‘buck’ teeth. What surprises us most is that when their ‘buck’ teeth is corrected, the confidence of the child sky rockets and it is one of the most job-satisfying parts of our career.
Better to be early than sorry
Over time, we have seen many cases who present at our clinic a little too late, and hence more complicated or prolonged orthodontic treatment needs to be warranted. In this day and age, seeing the general dentist every six months is not sufficient. Please remember to schedule an orthodontic check-up for your child by the age of 7 years old. With the advances in dental technology, we are able to monitor and prevent certain types of complications occurring during the stage of erupting teeth. This in turn, will hopefully encourage a shorter and less complicated orthodontic treatment later in life.