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When you think about orthodontics, is your first thought legions of braces-wearing teenagers? Indeed, for generations of teens, braces are like a rite of passage. And it makes sense — high school is when all your adult teeth have finally come in and you’ve said goodbye to your last baby teeth. However, did you know that orthodontic care can start much earlier than in adolescence?

orthodontist with a childIn fact, the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends that you should bring your kids to their first orthodontic visit at age seven. Why? Because by this age, children typically have their adult back molars, some of their baby teeth have been replaced by their adult counterparts, and your child’s jaw shape is pretty much set. At this transitional age, an orthodontist like Dr. Brandon Scheer can spot any potential orthodontic issues your child might have, as they continue to grow.

Official recommendations aside, you might like to know that Dr. Scheer knows firsthand the importance of early orthodontic treatment. Although he comes from a family line of dentists, he didn’t have braces until he was an adult. And by that age, he had to have serious jaw surgery to get an aligned bite and confident smile, a procedure that he could have avoided with early orthodontics.

Early Orthodontic Treatment

“The moral of that story is not to wait too long. Let your kid be evaluated by an orthodontist while they are young. There are things that we can do to modify the growth pattern of the jaws that can’t be done on adults.” he explains.

Now rest assured, an early first visit to us at Shine Orthodontics doesn’t always mean your child will need orthodontic treatment right away. In most cases, we’ll hold off on any treatment until all your child’s adult teeth have erupted and just keep tabs on how your child’s smile is shaping up through regular visits. We’ll let you know when it’s time to talk about treatment.

But what happens if we find that your child could benefit from early orthodontic treatment? It’s safe to say, that with any health issue, prevention is always better than fixing a problem afterward. In a nutshell, that’s the goal of early orthodontic treatment and why we’d recommend it.

Now, we completely understand that for parents, the idea of braces, appliances, or any orthodontics for young kids can sound a bit overwhelming. So in this post, we’ll give you all the information you need about orthodontics for kids so you can go in with peace of mind. We’ll talk about:

When Early Orthodontic Treatment Is Needed

As your Thornton, CO orthodontist, we approach early orthodontics as the AAO recommends — conservatively. As mentioned earlier, we only suggest it if we find serious issues that could benefit from interceptive orthodontics. Orthodontics for kids catches orthodontic problems before they become serious and it can have a positive impact on your child’s future oral health.

It’s all about the long view: treating orthodontic issues early gives us the opportunity to guide your child’s future oral development. Your child still might need braces in their teen years, but early orthodontic treatment will minimize their alignment and bite issues. Dr. Scheer might suggest early orthodontic treatment if your child has:

  • A crossbite, which can cause your child’s jaws to grow asymmetrically
  • Crowding that prevents permanent teeth from coming in
  • Protruding front teeth from early childhood habits like thumb sucking or tongue thrusting
  • Underbites or overbites resulting from jaw misalignment
  • Dental trauma from falls, sports, or other accidents

What Early Orthodontics for Kids Looks Like

Typically, orthodontics for kids is a two-phase process and follows your child’s oral development.

Phase 1:
Phase 1 is all about guiding your child’s teeth, jaw, and facial growth with an orthodontic appliance while your child is still growing. You could say that it does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to preventing and minimizing serious orthodontic issues. Depending on your kids’ teeth, Phase 1 might involve braces, an orthodontic expander, specialized retainers, or space maintainers.

At Shine Orthodontics, we want your child (and you!) to feel as confident and comfortable as possible with early orthodontic treatment. We take the time to walk you through your child’s diagnosis and our suggested treatment options so you have peace of mind right from the beginning. If your child needs braces, we have traditional metal braces, clear ceramic braces, and lingual braces (which go behind the teeth instead of the front). With our friendly staff and brand new, modern office, we strive to make early orthodontics a fun and positive experience. And treatment is surprisingly short! Phase 1 orthodontic treatment typically lasts only 6-12 months. Your child will outgrow their shoes in that same amount of time!

Phase 2:
When your child is in their preteen or teen years and has all their adult teeth, it’s time for Phase 2. In this phase, we want to ensure that every permanent tooth has a spot and that teeth function efficiently, remain stable, and, of course, look amazing!

In Phase 2, Dr. Scheer designs your child’s final smile with full upper and/or lower braces or Invisalign® Teen. Sometimes retainers or expanders are also recommended. Expect that your child will wear braces or Invisalign for about 1-2 years and when they’re done, they can proudly show off the beautiful, healthy smile they worked so hard to achieve!

When Dr. Scheer got his braces off, he felt like a new person, “The change in my appearance, ability to chew and eat food, and the change in my airway and breathing were life-changing. Now I feel great and have a ton of energy during the day, sleep well at night, and my family tells me that they can see a difference in the way I look, that I just look more vibrant. Correcting my bite and my jaw has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.”

Early Orthodontic Treatment Pros and Cons

Now that you’ve got the basics, here’s a list of early orthodontic pros and cons to consider. The team at Shine Orthodontics are happy to go over these with you in more detail if you have questions:

Pros:

  • Improves your child’s chewing, speaking or breathing
  • Makes room for emerging adult teeth
  • Preserves space for teeth that will come down but haven’t erupted yet
  • Creates facial symmetry
  • Reduces the need for tooth removal or surgery
  • Lessens future orthodontic correction
  • Improves self-esteem and confidence

Cons:

  • Your child (and parents) will have more appointments if two-phase treatment is necessary
  • Kids aren’t always keen on the extra time and diligence needed for oral care
  • Some orthodontic treatments, like braces or orthodontic expanders, cause mild tenderness, though this goes away quickly as soon as kids get used to their appliance

Your Thornton, CO Orthodontist For Interceptive Treatment

Dr. Scheer and the team at Shine Orthodontics want all our young patients and their parents to feel informed and confident when moving forward with early orthodontic treatment. If you have more questions or want to book your first early orthodontic assessment, contact us today. We’re more than happy to sit with you and your child in person or connect through a virtual appointment.