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The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7. While the vast majority of children usually don't begin orthodontic treatment until they are between 11 to 15 years old, there are some problems that should be treated as soon as they are noticed.
Your child may need to be assessed even earlier than 7 years old if your family dentist recommends an orthodontic evaluation. Thumb sucking, pacifier, tongue thrust and mouth-breathing are habits that may need early intervention. Early treatment may also be needed to aid in speech therapy.
PHASE 1 AND PHASE 2 TREATMENT
There are some young children with challenging problems that could benefit from beginning an early phase of treatment, usually between 7 and 9 years of age. This type of treatment plan involves the placement of an appliance which can facilitate such things as the development of the width of narrow jaws and the forward movement of the upper or lower jaw. The goal of first phase treatment is to help in the development of the jaw size in order to accommodate all of the permanent teeth, and to relate the upper and lower jaws to each other. In almost all cases, this is later followed by full orthodontic treatment at approximately 11-15 years of age.
PROBLEMS BENEFITING FROM EARLY TREATMENT
An extremely narrow upper dental arch will often lead to crowding of teeth and irregular dental alignment when a child is older. Certain appliances can be used to change the shape of the dental arch from a "U" shape to a wider shape, giving the teeth more room to move into a better position and help to avoid tooth extractions later.
An under bite problem observed in younger children is commonly due to a deficiency in upper jaw development. The upper jaw growth is slower than the lower jaw growth, giving the appearance that the lower jaw is overdeveloped.
A crossbite occurs when the top teeth don't align correctly with the bottom teeth. An anterior crossbite occurs when one or more of the top front teeth bite behind the lower front teeth. This crossbite can lead to excessive wear of the front teeth, as well as prevent the normal growth of the lower jaw. A posterior crossbite involves the back teeth and can lead to uneven growth of the jaw as well as chewing problems.