Pediatric OrthodonticsThe importance of pediatric orthodontics lies in the fact that early intervention in cases of teeth or jaw problems can spare your child from serious, long-term issues and make sure that any treatment required at a later age is less intensive. In some instances, pediatric orthodontics can accomplish results far better than those that could be achieved when your youngster’s face and jaw have developed fully.

Orthodontic problems in children may be present at birth because of genetics or develop during early childhood through early or late loss of baby teeth and habits like thumb-sucking.

Misaligned teeth can damage self-confidence as a child develops, and make oral hygiene difficult. Pediatric orthodontics can avoid these problems, and correct jaws and dental arches that are not positioned properly.

Signs of Orthodontic Issues in Children

Early diagnosis of orthodontic problems is key to enabling treatment that can pave the way for a lifetime of strong, healthy teeth.

Indications your child might benefit from pediatric orthodontics include:

Crooked or crowded teeth. Orthodontic treatment may be required if your youngster’s adult teeth are emerging crooked or are crowding other teeth. Relatively minor treatment may be able to prevent this problem from escalating.

Difficulty speaking. A misaligned jaw or problems with the teeth may make it hard for your child to pronounce certain words.

Mouth breathing. If your youngster keeps breathing through their mouth, it can damage the structure of the jaw. It can also cause gum inflammation (gingivitis) and an open bite when the upper and lower teeth don’t make proper contact.

Thumb-sucking. Most kids usually stop sucking their thumb around the age of two to four. If they’re still doing it when permanent teeth begin to emerge – typically around the age of six – it could be because they’re trying to alleviate developing problems such as crowded or protruding teeth.

Early or late loss of baby teeth. Kids typically start losing their primary teeth when they’re six or seven, and the process continues until around the age of 12. If your child is losing baby teeth much earlier or later than usual, it may be a sign of a developing orthodontic problem.

Crooked jaw. If your child’s jaw shifts when eating or is visibly out of alignment, the problem can worsen without orthodontic treatment.

Difficulty eating. If your child has to shift their jaw to chew properly, this may be an indication of a problem with the jaw and/or teeth.

It’s important to keep in mind that your child may show no obvious signs of orthodontic issues but can still have problems that only a pediatric orthodontist can spot. These issues include subtle problems with growth of the jaw and emerging permanent teeth.

Orthodontic Problems That Can Affect Your Child

Malocclusion – misalignment of teeth and bite – in your youngster can result in tooth decay because:

  • Brushing and flossing correctly is more difficult, especially for young children.
  • Enamel – the protective layer of a tooth – can be eroded through everyday activities such as speaking and eating.

The additional wear and tear on teeth resulting from malocclusion can also cause jaw ailments such as TMD (temporomandibular disorders) as uneven teeth impact the jaw muscles, causing long-term problems. Furthermore, misaligned teeth can hinder digestion because it makes it hard to chew food properly.

Orthodontic problems in youngsters can impair speech and affect facial appearance. This can significantly impact their self-esteem in their teen years, affecting social interactions and school performance. Research has shown that treatment to correct crooked teeth results in a considerable improvement in self-regard and quality of life.

Benefits of Pediatric Orthodontic Evaluation and Treatment

The American Association of Orthodontists1 (AAO) recommends that parents arrange an orthodontic assessment for a child by the time they’re seven. This is because by this age most children will have their “six-year molars” and four to eight permanent anterior teeth (incisors and canines).

By monitoring a youngster’s orthodontic condition, their dentist can detect subtle issues with emerging adult teeth and jaw growth, while baby teeth are still present.

If a developing problem is diagnosed, it gives the orthodontist three options:

  • Keeping an eye on the condition of the jaw and teeth as the child grows.
  • Scheduling treatment for later.
  • Starting early treatment.

Youngsters differ in treatment needs and physiological development. Therefore, pediatric orthodontics focuses on providing the most appropriate treatment at the best time.

Benefits for children visiting an orthodontist before a problem is severe include:

  • Reducing the risk of damage to protruding front teeth.
  • Rectifying harmful oral habits.
  • Preserving facial appearance.
  • Guiding emerging adult teeth into proper position.
  • Guiding jaw growth.
  • Remedying speech problems.
  • Lessening the tendency to clench or grind teeth.
  • Avoiding later treatment or shortening treatment time of future orthodontics.

Types of Pediatric Orthodontic Treatment

The importance of pediatric orthodontics2 is underscored by the fact that it’s easier to treat problems while a child’s jaw is still growing. Bone structure in a child is not as rigid as that of an adult. Further treatment may be necessary but it will be shorter and less complex.

Many types of oral appliances – fixed and removable – can be used to move a youngster’s teeth, influence jaw growth and retrain muscles. These devices, which apply gentle pressure on the jaw and teeth, include:

Braces. The most common fixed appliances, braces consist of wires, bands, and brackets. Thanks to technology, braces today are less obtrusive and more comfortable.

Aligners. A popular alternative to traditional braces among teens, clear plastic aligners like Invisalign Teen are practically invisible.

Space maintainers. These appliances can be removable or fixed, enabling adult teeth to grow into place by keeping space available for them.

Palatal expanders. These devices widen the arch of the upper jaw.

Taking the Stress Out of Pediatric Orthodontics

An experienced pediatric orthodontist can help to protect your youngster’s beaming smile and their self-confidence while ensuring the health benefits associated with proper functionality of the jaw and teeth.

Orthodontic appointments can be stressful for young patients. A pediatric orthodontic specialist will have the ability to put your child at ease and gain their confidence and trust.