A common concern among parents is whether their children are going to need orthodontic treatment. Perhaps your child’s teeth are already looking crooked or you’d just like to know what to expect when they are older. Perhaps you’d wondering if there is anything you can do now to avoid them having braces in the future? A consultation with a specialist orthodontist will answer all your concerns.

Your children are probably already seeing your family dentist on a regular basis, but an orthodontist is a dentist who has spent an additional 3 years of full-time training to specialise in assessing jaw growth and development, in addition to straightening crooked teeth. 

In the past, most of us would not have seen an orthodontist until we were well into our teenage years with all our adult teeth in place. Orthodontists now recommend that all children see a specialist orthodontist between the ages 7 and 10 for an assessment. The reason for this is that the front and back adult teeth (the six year-old molars and the incisors) have will have grown through by this age. Your experienced orthodontist can detect whether your child will have a problem with their bite and if there is going to be enough space for all their adult teeth.

Don’t be concerned if your child is over 10 years old though – you haven’t missed the boat. Your specialist orthodontist can provide a treatment solution for all problems at any age – adults included.

What problems should I look out for?

If your child has any of these signs, early orthodontic treatment may be indicated.

  • Early loss of baby teeth due to decay or trauma
  • Thumb sucking after the age of 5
  • Very crowded teeth
  • Upper front teeth that protrude excessively
  • Lower teeth biting in front of the upper teeth (underbite)
  • Problems with chewing or talking
  • Snoring or breathing through their mouth
  • A family history of missing or impacted teeth

What are the benefits of seeing an orthodontist whilst my child is so young?

There are more treatment options available

By the time most of us reach our mid-teens, the jaw bones have hardened and reached their final size. When your child is young the jaw bones are still developing, and their size and position may be manipulated. It is possible to widen a narrow upper jaw in a growing child or encourage growth of the upper or lower jaw to help minimise overbites or underbites. Treatment done whilst there are still baby teeth in place is known as “phase 1“or “early” treatment. The aim of phase 1 treatment is to correct a specific issue now in order to make any future orthodontic treatments more straightforward. It can be viewed as getting the teeth “back on track” to ideal development.

Financial reasons

Orthodontic treatment is a big financial investment and many families like to know ahead of time so they can set some money aside. You’ll be able to get an idea of the cost of any future treatment at your initial consultation so there are no surprises in store later. You may also want to consider whether to take out or upgrade your health insurance. This is a personal decision for each family, but it is important to check the policy details as many funds impose a 12-month waiting period before you can claim on any orthodontic treatment.

Improved self-esteem and confidence

Whilst many 7 to 10-year old’s don’t give their teeth a second thought, some children can become acutely self-conscious about their teeth even at this young age. If your child worries about the appearance of their teeth or is being teased about their teeth – your orthodontist can help. It’s amazing how the self-confidence of children elevates as soon as they start treatment, because they are now doing something to fix the problem. 

Continued monitoring

If your child isn’t ready for orthodontic treatment yet they will be placed on a review system and monitored on a regular basis. This is in addition to continuing to see your family dentist for general check-ups and cleans. This way, when they are ready for treatment it can be started at the ideal stage of growth and dental development and can be timed to accommodate school, work and social commitments.

By Dr Shelley Coburn (BDS, D Clin Dent (Ortho), AOB certified) www.westernortho.com.au

Dr Coburn is an active member of the orthodontic profession serving as a committee member on the Victorian Branch of the Australian Orthodontic Society. She is a member of the Australian Dental Association, the World Federation of Orthodontists and is certified by the Australian Orthodontic Board.