At what age should I start orthodontics?

There are a lot of positives about getting older, however,  ageing may also bring some not so great issues to the table. Let’s talk about the appropriate age to be assessed for orthodontic treatment. 

Often folks wonder, do we have to wait for all of the baby or primary teeth to be replaced by permanent teeth? Will a child grow out of an orthodontic problem?  If I take up treatment early will severe problems be controlled early and help to limit the need for more difficult treatments?

Both the Canadian and American Associations of Orthodontists recommend that a child’s first orthodontic check-up be no later than 7 years of age.  There are several developing orthodontic problems that can be intercepted.  Treatment is intended to free up the growth and development of the young patient’s jaw structure and allow them to remain on an improved path of facial growth and jaw development.  

If excessive permanent extractions or jaw surgeries are to be avoided, many treatments may need to be started as early as age 8 or 9. The apparent straightness of front teeth have little to do with orthodontic need at this age.  The focus here is on available space, jaw arch width and jaw co-ordination. These considerations are most important in accommodating the increasing tooth mass between baby and adult teeth.  Often the child’s natural jaw growth will not be enough to house all of the teeth, let alone in the correct bite location.  Patients do not outgrow their orthodontic problems, they grow into them.

At check-ups the orthodontist will detect developing bite problems that can be treated early.  Monitoring may occur at first if the problem is not yet suitable for an efficient correction. When ready, these may be able to be completely corrected or at least controlled to lessen the severity of more difficult treatment at a later time.

Assessments will be made to lower the risk to protruding front teeth, improve dental and facial appearance and improve lip posture.  Indeed, early treatment may prevent the development of more serious problems and in so doing make the treatment easier and more enjoyable for the child and the family.

In many instances early intervention allows for treatment outcomes that would be much more difficult to achieve in non-growing preteens, teens or adult patients.  In our goal for facial enhancement through orthodontic treatment, early detection can be invaluable.

Orthodontically yours,

Dr. Joel Schacher