Orthodontics And The Young Child

Posted on: 16 December 2014

Everyone wants their child to have a great smile.  It is possible to start orthodontic treatment even before a child has lost all of their baby teeth.  Is this an option for your child?  It is now recommended by many orthodontists that children as young as 7 years old be evaluated by an orthodontist.  If a problem is detected, beginning treatment young will help prevent more serious problems down the road. 

Orthodontic Treatment for the Young Child

An orthodontist fixes problems with patients who have improper positioning of teeth.  These problems include improper bites, such as an overbite or an underbite.  An orthodontist also works with crooked teeth, crowding of teeth, and improper spacing of teeth.  They can fix issues with jaw alignment. A number of methods are used to correct these problems.  These methods include braces, headgear, retainers, and palatal expanders. 

Treatments for some conditions are best started at a young age.  It is easy to correct some problems while the child is still growing. An orthodontist has more flexibility to move teeth and position them better before all the baby teeth fall out.  When treatment is started very young, it occurs in two phases.

Phase 1: Early Treatment

In phase one, the goal of the orthodontist is to prevent or intercept problems that they see starting.  They can attempt to guide permanent teeth into growing properly, and also can guide jaw bones into place.  This results in straighter teeth and an aligned jaw.  An orthodontist will start correcting problems with a child's bite, which will enable correct biting, chewing, and oral habits.  

What occurs during phase one will depend on the child.  If there is severe teeth crowding, a palatal expander can be used.  Other conditions might require braces on a small number of permanent teeth that have already erupted (typically no more than six), or require use of a removable type of appliance, like a retainer. 

After phase one is complete, there will likely be a "resting period" before phase 2 begins.  This gives the remaining permanent teeth a chance to grow in.

Phase 2: Traditional

In this phase, the main goal of an orthodontist is to move teeth into their final position.  This is often when you will see a child in a full set of braces.  Phase two perfects alignment and fine-tunes the child's bite. 


Some parents are skeptical when a dentist suggests beginning orthodontic treatment at such a young age.  It can be difficult to see the benefit in correcting certain oral problems before the permanent teeth have even grown in.  In some cases, such as simply correcting crooked teeth, there is little reason to begin treatment at such a young age. 

There are some conditions that do benefit from beginning treatment young, such as palatal, crowding, and bite problems.  By intervening early, you will likely cut down on the amount of time your child has to wear braces.  Correcting future problems will be less complex when orthodontic treatment is aligned with your child's growth and development.

An orthodontist, one like Crest Hill Family Dental, will have the most accurate information about how to proceed with treatment after an evaluation of your child.