When you look at your child’s crooked smile, you might wonder: When does my child need braces? The current generation of parents remembers the typical pattern of orthodontics from their childhood—you lose all of your teeth, and right around the awkward growth of middle school where everything else in your body is changing, hormones are surging, acne is raging, and you are at the height of your self-consciousness, you head into the orthodontic clinician who slaps braces on your teeth. We played early Nintendos in our basements and talked to our friends on phones attached to the wall and waited out the misery of it all. Ah, the fond memories of those beautiful years.
Technology has advanced so far since then that our kids with their smart phone proficiency and Nintendo Switches imagine us to be walking with the dinosaurs when we tell them about our past. And digital tech isn’t the only thing that’s advanced since then. The approach to orthodontics has changed (and is changing!) from reactive to preventive. What does that mean?
Signs of a Problem
While we used to visit the orthodontic clinician once all permanent teeth were present, now we recommend visiting by age 7 or at the first sign of a permanent tooth. When children reach the age of 12, 90 percent of their faces are developed. This means that their jaws may not have room for the permanent teeth that are present or already on their way. Rather than waiting until those awkward pre-teen years, Dr. Rondeau prefers to see patients as early as age 5. This way we can take a two-phase approach to treatment, if necessary, to make room for permanent teeth as the jaw develops.
When your child visits Dr. Rondeau at an early age, we will look at the child’s teeth, bite, and habits to be sure the arch is developing properly. What are signs your child may benefit from early treatment?
- Crowding. The easiest problem to spot is that the permanent teeth look crowded.
- Bad bite. Your child’s upper and lower teeth should line up in the center, and the upper teeth should fit outside the lower teeth.
- Deep Bite. The upper teeth hide the lower teeth.
- Open Bite. The upper and lower teeth do not meet in the front.
- Overjet. The upper teeth stick out much more than the lower teeth.
- Crossbite. Some upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth rather than outside.
- Facial Asymmetry. When looking at your child from the front, it appears the face or chin is shifted to one side.
- Headaches or earaches. A bad bite can cause pressure or muscle tiredness, which can lead to daily pain for your child.
- Habits. Thumb-sucking, mouth breathing, or a bad swallow are all habits that could be caused by or lead to a jaw development problem.
So, when does my child need braces?
Phase 1. Functional Appliance
Rather than starting with braces as a teenager as we did in what your kids would call “the olden days,” phase one of treatment helps the jaw to develop properly as it grows. When a child has a bad bite, almost half of the time it is because their jaw is underdeveloped. A functional appliance can reposition the jaw forward and correct a bite problem in 7-9 months.
A functional appliance is like a retainer. The correct functional appliance for your child’s problem is adjusted over time and helps to change the bone so the jaw can grow to its full potential. This phase one treatment can help prevent the need for tooth extraction, lengthy use of braces, a fang-like tooth appearance, and more. This way at age 12, bad habits can be corrected and your child’s jaw can be set up for maximum success. Early intervention can help you to avoid costly, painful, and lengthy treatment later on.
Phase 2. Braces
After phase one, once permanent teeth are present (and now have the maximum amount of space in a beautifully developed jaw and arch!), we consider braces to straighten the teeth. Usually braces are on the teeth for two years. Phase 1 of treatment can make phase 2 significantly easier. In fact, when you treat early using functional appliances, 80 percent of the treatment can be finished before adult teeth are present.
What Is the First Step?
If your child’s teeth are overcrowded, you suspect a bite problem, or you have noticed bad habits or aches and pains, visit for a free consultation. Dr. Rondeau will take a look and let you know if he thinks your child’s orthodontic problem can be corrected with early intervention. And a visit may not lead to immediate treatment, but it at least will make both Dr. Rondeau and you aware of what’s to come. Even if you are simply making the appointment for peace of mind, we would love to see you and your child. Remember, early intervention is the key, so a first visit now is a great first step.
Interested in your free orthodontic consultation? Schedule it today!
Call Rondeau & Associates in London, ON to schedule your appointment: (519) 455-4110.