Is It Ever Too Early to Start Orthodontic Treatment?

Is It Ever Too Early to Start Orthodontic Treatment?

Early detection of health problems is critical in just about every known medical condition from heart disease to cancer. The same holds true for teeth. 

Very few people are born with perfectly straight, well-spaced teeth that develop into a perfect smile. Most of us have at least a few crooked teeth or a slightly misaligned bite. In fact, about 4.5 million Americans have enough of an issue that they wear braces. Although most of them are teens, a rising number of adults are getting in the game as well, especially since the advent of clear aligners

But grown-ups aren’t the only growing group of orthodontic patients — the 7-and-up crowd is reaping the benefits of early treatments.

At LM Orthodontics in McLean, Virginia, we love meeting and treating our pediatric patients at a young age so we can identify any existing or future problems and address them before they develop into harder-to-treat issues. Here’s what you need to know about early orthodontic treatments.

How early is too early?

Your baby’s first tooth is an exciting milestone in their development. As teeth continue to pop through the surface, you may notice that a few of them are a little crooked, but there’s no need for concern — yet.

From birth to age 3, all your child’s teeth will have emerged and claimed a place in the upper and lower arches — about 20 teeth in all. If you notice excess space between these teeth, don’t fret. The baby teeth are merely placeholders for the permanent teeth yet to come.

However, if your child’s baby teeth are crowded, it may mean that future teeth won’t have room in the row. 

By age 6, most children begin to lose their baby teeth, and adult teeth begin to emerge. Up until this point, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends allowing your child's teeth to come in and fall out naturally, and so do we. Before this point, we can’t make a valid assessment of what the future holds.

Why age 7 is the magic number

By the time your kid is 7, several permanent teeth will have erupted, which gives us ample information to predict upcoming problems. Often, we find that there’s no cause for concern, and we send you and your child home with peace of mind knowing that all is well.

In some cases, we detect signs of future problems, but nothing worth treating early. In these instances, we typically recommend watching and waiting, and we schedule regular visits to check in with the progress and development.

At times, we may discover a current issue that can benefit from interceptive orthodontic treatment to correct a problem before it gets out of hand.

At age 7, your child’s jawbone and facial structures are still developing and can be more easily guided with orthodontic treatment than when they are older.

What can early orthodontic treatment fix?

The most common problems we can address with early orthodontic treatment include:

If your child’s teeth indicate any of these conditions, we can gently correct them with either braces, spacers, palate expanders, or extractions. 

It’s important to keep in mind that early orthodontic treatment doesn’t mean your child will never need orthodontic treatment later in life, but it does mean that they will have a head start, and that their future treatment may be easier or shorter.

To find out if your 7-year-old child needs early orthodontic treatment, schedule a consultation at LM Orthodontics by calling our office or booking an appointment online today. Now is the time.

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