Growth Modification


When should you consider early treatment for your child?

In the past, orthodontic patients were told to wait until all of the permanent teeth had erupted (about age 12 or later) before any braces could be put on. Unfortunately, many of the problems that may be easily corrected at a younger age cannot be fully corrected if treatment is delayed until the teenage years. Just as a younger tree can be adapted and encouraged to grow in a particular direction, the jaws and facial bones of children may also be adapted and encouraged to grow in more desirable directions than can the facial structures of older children and teenagers. Today we know that younger children (age 6-11) can benefit in many ways from interceptive orthodontic care. 

Sometimes orthodontic treatment is divided into two phases. The first phase is utilized to create a better environment for teeth to erupt. It is not just about straightening teeth, although a benefit of creating space often allows for better alignment. The first phase of treatment is about the BIG things: jaw problems, horizontal and vertical bite problems, modifying growth, expanding the arches and controlling habits. All of these things can be very difficult to treat once children have reached 12 or 13 years of age when growth is almost complete.

In many cases, expansion or “developing the arches” can be utilized to avoid extractions in younger children with crowded teeth. Although expansion may be accomplished in older children (12 or older) and even some adults, it is generally less effective and much less stable than arch development at a younger age. 

Another reason for initiating treatment early is that children in the 6-11 age range are becoming aware of their appearances. Children establish ideas about themselves at this age that are based on what others say and notice. Early treatment can have a dramatic impact on your child’s self-esteem, especially for a child that has an obvious orthodontic problem.

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