LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – There is a lot of information, and even more opinions, about early orthodontic treatment. While not the solution to each orthodontic challenge, parents and caregivers have to know the facts and recommendations to make an informed decision for their child, says Dr. David Alpan, a Las Vegas invisible braces expert.
Children’s permanent teeth typically start to erupt between the ages of 6 and 7, and orthodontic problems become more obvious. Most dental professionals say the optimal time to correct most jaw problems is when a child is still young.
No matter what age, the mechanics of moving teeth are the same. However, early orthodontic treatment can fix certain issues faster than if the patient waited until an older teen or adult.
Treating early allows orthodontists to guide jaw growth in children and help prevent problems that can be caused by jaw misalignment, such as headaches, chewing problems and speech development.
Early screening/assessment by professional
Dr. Alpan says the only way to know if early orthodontic treatment is right for the child is to have an orthodontist assess the problem. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends having children screened no later than age 7 to determine the best age for treatment.
Dr. Alpan will examine the face, teeth, jaw joint and the relationship of the lower jaw and teeth to the upper jaw and teeth to determine the nature of the problem. Then we discuss options with the parent or guardian and recommend a treatment plan, which might be as simple as a “wait and see” approach.
“As soon as we know what the problem is and what you or your child wants, we can create a customized plan to help you achieve your goals,” says Dr. Alpan, who offers complimentary consultations at his Las Vegas, NV orthodontics practice, Aesthetic Orthodontics.
Types of malocclusions
Malocclusions, literally meaning “bad bite,” are grouped into three classes, and not all of them benefit from early orthodontics.
1- Class I malocclusion is when crowded teeth are either crooked or protrude.
2- Class II malocclusion is commonly referred to as an overbite or buck teeth.
3- Class III malocclusion is a lower jaw that is too big or the upper jaw is too small, causing what is known as an underbite.
Because a Class III malocclusion includes problems stemming from jaw growth or misalignment, a child with that type of bad bite can be a good candidate for early intervention. Two other common orthodontic problems that may benefit from early intervention are crossbites and protruding front teeth. Crossbites often cause the jaws to grow unevenly and protruding front teeth may be fractured or injured in an accident.
“The goal of early intervention in most cases is changing growth,” said Dr. Alpan, a Las Vegas, NV orthodontist. “The window of opportunity to do that starts young, around age 7. By 10, we may be too late.”
According to the AAO, the average age range for the beginning of most orthodontic treatment is between ages 9 and 14, with the length of treatment lasting one to three years.
Before fitting a patient with any appliance or type of braces, Dr. Alpan takes X-rays, photographs and plaster models. He creates computer models to show patients how their teeth will move and what they will look like after treatment.
Between the ages of 7 and 10 is a typical time to correct crossbite- teeth that overlap each other- most commonly when the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth, according to the Las Vegas, NV Invisalign provider. A crossbite can make it difficult for children to bite and chew properly. The upper jaw needs to be brought forward during this age range if the lower jaw is jutting out. Headaches next to the temple can be caused by a misaligned jaw.
Dr. Alpan uses fixed or moveable appliances like a palatal expander or headgear to widen the jaw or change the alignment of the upper and lower jaw. He also uses appliances that push forward the lower jaw, which can open up the airway and may prevent problems with sleep apnea or snoring.
Las Vegas, NV invisible braces provider Dr. Alpan said the optimal time to begin dealing with crowded teeth caused by a small or narrow dental arch or big teeth is before the age of 12, or before all the permanent teeth have come in. Extremely crowded teeth can cause the bone and gums over the roots to thin and recede, impacting permanent teeth.