It depends. Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is always an optimal time period to begin treatment.
In our office, we like to say that “Timing is Everything”.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that an initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7 or 8. It is important to remember that this recommendation is for an evaluation.
For most patients, that does not mean that treatment is needed immediately. The importance of that point may not be immediately evident. A thorough examination can provide valuable information regarding what the problems are and when is the best time to start treatment.
What are the benefits of an early orthodontic evaluation?
Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunities for more effective treatment. Prudent and timely intervention guides growth and development, which can sometimes prevent more serious problems later.
When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, which is usually the case for the majority of younger patients, Dr. Stush will carefully monitor facial growth and development, beginning treatment only when it is ideal and in your child’s best interests.
Remember, early treatment is not automatically better treatment, but it usually means that the patient will be in treatment longer over their lifetime. Careful assessment and selection of patients who will truly benefit from early treatment is essential.
This philosophy and approach to orthodontic care has always been a hallmark of our office.
Why is age 7 – 8 considered the optimal time for screening?
For most children by the age of 7 or 8, the “six-year” molars or first permanent molars erupt establishing the backbite. The upper and lower permanent incisors are also present as well as the twelve remaining primary or “baby” teeth.
The second or “twelve-year” molars are still developing in the jaws. At this time, Dr. Stush can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth and jaw relationships. It is also possible to decide if crowding will be a problem as the remaining permanent teeth erupt. Much can be learned for patients at this age and parents can get “heads-up” information regarding facial growth, development and dental eruption regarding potential orthodontic treatment in the future.
What are the advantages of interceptive treatment?
Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment are:
- Guiding the eruption of the permanent teeth
- Using growth modification to balance jaw or facial growth
- Enhancing a young child’s appearance
- Correcting “jaw shifting” crossbites
- Preserving space for unerupted teeth
- Intercepting growth and development problems so they do not become more severe
Orthodontics is not merely for improving the appearance of the smile or straightening the teeth. While orthodontic treatment always straightens the teeth, it also improves jaw relationships while correcting bad bites (malocclusions). Malocclusions occur as a result of tooth or jaw misalignment and problems with facial growth, development or dental eruption.
Malocclusions affect the way you smile, chew, are able to maintain your oral health and ultimately can influence how you feel about yourself.
Why should malocclusions be treated?
According to studies by the American Association of Orthodontists, untreated malocclusions can result in a variety of problems with a few examples below:
- Crowded teeth are more difficult to brush and floss, which may contribute to tooth decay and/or gum disease.
- Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental fracture.
- Crossbites can result in unfavorable jaw growth and uneven tooth wear.
- Open bites can result in long-term, functional bite problems, poor esthetics and speech impediments.
Ultimately, orthodontics is more than changing smiles, it helps create a healthier you.