Orthodontic treatment is most commonly associated with teenagers. However, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends children receive their first orthodontic check-up around the age of seven. In cases where certain irregularities are noted, treatment may be sought at an earlier age. This allows the orthodontist optimal time to treat malocclusion and irregularities of the face and jaw before problems worsen. Some problems are more easily corrected before jaw growth is complete which is why it important to have them detected early.    

Irregularities in Pediatric Dental Development

Orthodontists are skilled at diagnosing signs of tooth and jaw irregularities. Such irregularities are most often a result of genetic factors, but can be exacerbated by poor nutrition, poor oral hygiene, medical conditions or treatments, and/or oral habits like thumb sucking.

Types of Early Orthodontic Intervention

The goal of early treatment is to ensure more serious problems do not develop. If an irregularity is allowed to progress, there is a chance later treatment will be more complicated. Your orthodontist can help improve the appearance of your child’s teeth and bite, guide jaw growth, and provide advice and support on correcting nonnutritive oral habits.

Early intervention tends to fall into two main categories, preventive or interceptive:

  • Preventive Treatment: aims to avoid the development of malocclusion in an otherwise normally developing mouth. Example: If a baby tooth has been lost too early, a space maintainer appliance can hold that space for the corresponding adult tooth. Example: Your dentist may remove a baby tooth to create space for the corresponding adult tooth to erupt. 
  • Interceptive Treatment: aims to reduce the complexity of a developing problem and/or eliminate the cause when possible. The ideal candidate for interceptive treatment usually has a mixture of adult and baby teeth. Your orthodontist is able aid in the correction of jaw and/or tooth misalignment through the use of appliances like expanders, functional appliances, and/or headgear.

What is involved in determining what treatment may be best for my child?

Your orthodontist will first conduct a visual examination of your child’s teeth. This may be accompanied by a 2D or 3D X-ray, 3D intraoral scan, and intraoral photos that aid in the diagnosis and planning of the most effective treatment for your child’s individual circumstances.

Below is an overview of some of the orthodontic treatment options for children. Most treatment is comprised of a combination of the below options (Eg expansion and braces, or expansion and Invisalign®):

  • Braces – Braces are comprised of brackets that are affixed to each individual tooth with an archwire that connects the brackets. The brackets are usually metal, ceramic, or a clear synthetic material.
  • Invisalign® – Invisalign® aligners are clear trays that are worn for the recommended amount of time each day. Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®. 
  • Expanders – Expanders can help widen your child’s palate and/or jaw to create more space for your child’s teeth. This can help ensure their permanent teeth come in without crowding problems. It can also help your orthodontist optimize their bite without removing teeth or jaw surgery.
  • Headgear/Reverse Pull Headgear – Headgear/reverse pull headgear are orthodontic appliances that, if used at the right age and for enough time, can help guide and correct improper jaw growth to ensure the upper and lower jaw are in functionally optimal position. 
  • Functional Appliances – Functional appliances include a group of orthodontic appliances that can also aid in promoting proper jaw growth to ensure the top and bottom jaw grow in more optimal alignment.
  • Retainers – Wearing retainer/s as prescribed by your orthodontist is very important, and ensures that your child's teeth will maintain their proper position after active treatment is complete. 

If you have any questions about orthodontic treatment for children, please feel free to contact our office!


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