Katsis Orthodontics: Early Treatment
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children have an orthodontic examination by an orthodontist at age 7 or 8. The vast majority of children do not require early orthodontic treatment (also known as Interceptive Treatment or a Phase 1) and will be routinely monitored until they are ready for comprehensive orthodontics (which typically starts between the ages of 11 and 13). Some children have bite problems that will significantly benefit from early treatment. The following are some of the bite-problems that should be treated early.
In children, there are times when the upper jaw is too narrow to accommodate all of their teeth. Palatal expanders create more space in a child's mouth by gradually widening the upper jaw. Although this may sound scary, it's really quite easy — both to do and to tolerate. That's because the upper jaw actually develops as two separate halves that don't completely fuse together until sometime after puberty. Before that happens, the two bones can gently be separated and stabilized over a period of several months. An expander is custom-made for each individual and fits over several top teeth in the back of the mouth. The appliance has two halves that are connected in the middle with a screw. To activate the device, you simply turn the screw a very small amount each day with a special key.
In addition to making more room for adult teeth, a palatal expander can help to prevent future gum problems and avoid surgical procedures when the child is done growing.
An underbite is when the upper front teeth are behind the lower front teeth. Underbites that are left untreated can cause damage to the gums, teeth, and jaw joint (TMJs). Correcting an underbite in a child is typically achieved with an expander connected to a brace worn at night. In addition to causing damage to the teeth and gums, untreated underbites may require a surgical reduction and/or repositioning of the the jaw bones after growth is completed.