Orthodontics used to be considered a rite of passage for teenagers, but now, children as young as 8 are starting braces. Why has this shift occurred? Are children’s teeth getting worse and requiring attention sooner? Parents can breathe easy, because this isn’t the case. The truth is that early-age orthodontics offers several, long-lasting benefits as opposed to waiting, and a children’s orthodontist in Westerville is happy to discuss a few.
Set the Path for a Straight Smile
The positions of the baby teeth have a direct impact on how straight (or not) the adult teeth emerge. Often, crowded baby teeth can actually block an adult tooth, causing it to come in crooked, which causes the next one to be crooked, and so on.
Baby teeth literally lay out the path that the adult teeth follow when they come into the mouth, and early-age orthodontics can shift the baby teeth as needed to avoid more complicated orthodontic issues down the road. Overall, this approach of adjusting the baby teeth usually shortens a child’s overall treatment time.
Break Bad Habits
Two common childhood habits that can lead to orthodontic problems are thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. You probably know what thumb sucking is, and tongue thrusting occurs when a child’s tongue goes forward instead of backward whenever they swallow, which can push their front teeth forward.
A small orthodontic device placed in the mouth called a “crib” can gently discourage a child from engaging in these habits so that they eventually stop on their own. This gives the teeth a much better chance to come in straight and require less repositioning.
Guarantee Better Sleep
It’s absolutely essential that a child get adequate sleep during their formative years, but a growing issue that can interfere with their rest is sleep-disordered breathing. This can involve anything from consistent snoring to full-blown sleep apnea, and part of the problem is usually a narrow airway. Orthodontics can be used to expand a child’s palate to open up their airway, enabling them to breathe better, sleep more deeply, and feel rested and focused during the day.
When Should a Child Start Orthodontic Treatment?
So, if you shouldn’t wait for your child to be a teenager to start braces, when should they first see an orthodontist? The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child should receive an orthodontic screening around age 8. This is old enough that some of the adult teeth may have already started to come in, but early enough that most issues can be easily corrected.
The ultimate outcome of early-age orthodontics is a healthy, functional, and attractive smile, which in addition to the dental benefits, offers countless advantages for a child in the long-term, namely more confidence and elevated self-esteem, which is enough to make any parent smile.
About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Shirck is a board-certified, award-winning orthodontist and proud father of 3 boys. He’s able to work with patients of all ages and loves welcoming kids into our practice and getting them excited about their smiles. If you believe that your child might benefit from early-age orthodontics, we’d be happy to go over their options and answer your questions at a FREE consultation. Click here to schedule today.