Early orthodontic treatment can begin as early as five or six years old. However, conventional orthodontic treatment often doesn’t start until the age of 11 or older when all the baby teeth have been lost. The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and bite problems, such as underbite. Early treatment also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, reducing the chance of extractions in the future.
How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment
Your child should typically start losing teeth around age six and will have all permanent teeth around 11. If your child has an early or late loss of baby teeth, they may need orthodontic treatment. If you notice any of the signs below:
Difficulty chewing and/or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Your child continues to suck a thumb or pacifier after age five
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
- Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or even at all
- Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes the mouth (cross bites)
- Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight
What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early prevention benefit my child?
Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between them, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.
Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 11. By the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, leaving little to no chance of extraction or surgery in the future.