Early Treatment

At what age should a child have an orthodontic examination?

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children have an orthodontic evaluation at age 7.  Dr. Cruikshank and Dr. Weber will determine the necessity of orthodontic treatment, and if indicated, the best time to start. Many dentists in our community are screening children for orthodontic problems, and may refer you to our office even earlier than age 7.

Why are children being evaluated at such an early age?

Early detection can catch problems before they become more complicated.  In some cases, we can guide erupting teeth into a more favorable position, preserve space for permanent teeth, or even reduce the likelihood of fracturing front teeth. In addition, Dr. Cruikshank and Dr. Weber are experts in the development of the jaws, identifying and resolving time sensitive growth issues.

Early treatment can increase the width of the upper dental arch and gain space for permanent teeth.  Catching issues like early baby tooth loss can avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions or reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth.  For some children, early treatment can correct habits like thumb sucking.

Does early treatment benefit all children?

Early treatment does not necessarily benefit all children. Certain types of orthodontic problems can be more efficiently corrected in the teen years when all the permanent teeth have erupted. Some skeletal orthodontic problems should not be addressed until adolescence. In the majority of cases, there are advantages to waiting to begin treatment; however, catching issues early can be important– that’s why we love the opportunity to see patients at a young age.  When we determine children are best treated at a later date, we place them on observation and see them twice a year.

The orthodontic observation program is for patients who are not quite ready for treatment but have orthodontic problems. This enables us to monitor the eruptive pattern of the permanent teeth along with growth and development. Sometimes, poor eruption patterns of permanent teeth may be eliminated with selective removal of baby teeth.  This often reduces the time required for braces.  There is no fee for this program and in addition to helping your child’s development, the program gives them a chance to really get to know Dr. Darcy and Dr. Lauren.

If a child has treatment early, will this prevent the need for braces as an adolescent?

Research has shown that early treatment does not shorten or prevent the need for braces when all the permanent teeth erupt. Early treatment can, however, make full treatment easier for patients in the future. We are careful to prescribe early treatment for patients only when it prevents a more significant problem from occurring.  Patients with braces and other orthodontic appliances require more effort to keep their teeth and gums clean. Because we want to insure the highest level of dental health, we recommend you see your family dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings every 6 months during treatment.  And, we only recommend treatment when your child is ready and able to succeed with treatment.