The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children receive a consult with an orthodontist at an early age for a number of reasons. An orthodontic specialist can detect present or potential problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth and spot jaw problems such as one jaw is not growing at the proper rate or one jaw is too narrow or wide or even crooked. Much like catching a harmful disease early on in order to treat it effectively before it does excess damage, early orthodontic treatment may prevent more serious orthodontic issues from being a big problem later in the child’s life.

Early preventative orthodontic treatment, or phase 1 treatment, usually begins when a child is between the ages of seven and nine when there is still a combination of baby and adult teeth present in the child’s mouth. The objective of early preventative treatment is to prevent developing orthodontic problems, address them early, and reduce the need for further treatment later on. Most phase 1 treatments require a second phase to achieve the final correct placement of the teeth and jaws, but catching problems early can reduce the length and scope of the second phase.

Early orthodontic treatments can include correction of a cross bite to prevent improper jaw growth and excess wear on the teeth, space management to prevent crowding teeth and to allow room for new teeth, and correction of protrusive upper incisors to reduce excess wear on them. This early treatment can also correct harmful oral habits, lower the risk of damage to the teeth, improve the patient’s appearance, guide jaw growth, and help guide new, permanent teeth into their correct position. Orthodontic devices and appliances may be used to achieve correct jaw growth and help direct the teeth into an ideal position. This provides for a solid and healthy foundation for permanent teeth to settle into. For instance, a space maintainer is an orthodontic appliance that reserves some space for permanent teeth to grow into in an ideal fashion. This device and more devices like it, such as a cross-bite appliance, can save time and money in the long run, preventing more severe orthodontic problems from occurring.

In addition to the potential problems we have talked about thus far, in many cases a child’s baby teeth do not fall out on their own and may need to be extracted in order to make room for the permanent teeth.

Recent studies suggest that crooked teeth, oral overcrowding, and other orthodontic problems have become more common just within the past century. Some experts claim this is because less women breast feed and use bottles instead, which could have an effect on the malleable palate of babies. Other reports indicate that genetics and accidents affect this increase in the incidence of orthodontic problems.

The period of early preventative treatment for orthodontics may last for 10 to 18 months with periodic office visits which can be scheduled every four to six weeks, depending on the patient and his or her needs. Since the mouth and jaws of children remain somewhat soft and changeable during the process of tooth eruption, this is an optimal opportunity for reshaping and expanding the upper and lower palate to make an environment ideal for incoming teeth. When the mouth is properly prepared to receive new teeth, you can often circumvent the need for future tooth extractions and also prevent problems such as tooth impactions. An orthodontist in Canberra can also address issues that contribute to speech impediments, thumb sucking, and difficulty swallowing.