When is the best time to begin orthodontics?
Although an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is often an optimal time period for each individual to begin treatment. Beginning treatment at this optimal time ensures the greatest result in the least amount of time and expense. For example, some types of problems are most easily corrected after all of the permanent teeth have erupted and during active growing periods of the face and jaws. Other procedures, such as rapid maxillary expansion, can only be done non-surgically before the late teenage years (when the midpalatal suture closes.) The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. At this early age, orthodontic treatment may not be necessary, but vigilant examination can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.
What are the benefits of early orthodontic evaluation?
Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Prudent intervention can guide growth and development, preventing more serious problems later. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, we can carefully monitor the growth and development of the patient and begin treatment when it is ideal.
Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for screening?
By the age of 7, the first adult molars are usually erupted, establishing the posterior limit of available arch length. In addition, by this time the growth in the width of the jaws is nearly completed. An orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships, and can evaluate for developing problems such as excess overbite, open bite, crowding or missing teeth. Timely screening increases the chances for optimal intervention of a variety of bite problems.
What are the advantages of early treatment?
Some of the most direct results of early, interceptive treatment are:
- Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth
- Creating facial symmetry or facial balance through influencing jaw growth
- Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
- Preserving space for unerupted teeth
- Reducing the need for tooth removal in the future
- Reducing treatment time with full braces later