Dr. Hopkins usually doesn’t recommend treatment until the child has all of his or her adult teeth, which is around twelve years of age. However sometimes, orthodontic treatment may be required earlier. According to the Australian Association of Orthodontists a child should be seen for an orthodontic assessment at seven years of age or when a problem arises.
The situations that require treatment earlier in children include some of the following examples.
1. Stop harmful habits such as thumb sucking
The longer a child sucks his/her thumb, the greater the damage that can be caused to the teeth. We offer various options to help stop these habits.
2. Maintain space for eruption of permanent teeth
Early loss of a deciduous/baby tooth can result in the neighbouring teeth shifting, which will block the path for an adult tooth that will eventually come through. Maintaining spaces is often critical, and it is easy to manage it by providing a child with a very simple orthodontic appliance.
3. Help adult teeth erupt in a correct manner and reduce likelihood of impacted teeth
Prevention is better than cure, and if we can assess a child early enough, we can often intervene in a manner which can prevent a tooth becoming impacted/stuck. Early interceptive orthodontic treatment of suspected impacted teeth such as permanent canines can completely resolve the problem in the majority of cases, and improve the situation in many more.
4. Modify jaw growth
There are two categories that I look at. The first is when a child has teeth that stick out too far. Often there is a real need for treatment, so we can improve the position of the teeth, improve the appearance and reduce the change of traumatic injuries. Treating this problem at the correct age is vital. The other group of children that I like to see early are those who have prominent lower front teeth commonly referred to as an underbite. In order to give the child the best chance of a successful outcome I like to start treatment before 10 years of age. If we can carry this out, then the success rate is higher and this can prevent very complicated treatment later.
5. Correct abnormal bites i.e. crossbites
Children are often diagnosed as having crossbites at the front (anterior) or at the back (posterior). It is important to correct these for a number of reasons because crossbites can lead to tooth wear, reduction in space for adult teeth to erupt, gum problems such as recession. It is easier to correct crossbites earlier in a patient, and in children these can be fixed very quickly and easily with orthodontic appliances that are either removable or alternatively fixed to the teeth.
6. Relief of crowding
Crowding is essentially where there is not enough space in the mouth to accommodate the adult teeth. In some children, early management of crowding can limit the problem occurring in the adult teeth. This may eliminate the need for orthodontic treatment in some children and simplify future treatment in others.