The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) and American Academy of Pediatricians recommend all children see an orthodontist as early as age 7. This is to ensure that the upper and lower jaws and all permanent teeth are developing in a normal pattern. The complementary consultation appointment becomes a good visit for pictures, X-rays and an exam from Dr. Emerson.

You will not be charged a fee at our office for these observational visits including any x-rays or pictures taken, so we invite everyone to take advantage of finding out how your child’s teeth are developing. Dr. Emerson is very conservative and will only recommend interceptive treatment if your child has a problem that left untreated could become worse.

When treatment begins early, the orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaw and guide incoming permanent teeth. Early treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb-sucking, and eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems. In other words, early treatment can simplify later treatment.

How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth
  • Mouth breathing
  • Habits (thumb, finger, lip sucking) past the age of five
  • Speech concerns
  • Protrusive upper teeth
  • Upper teeth that fit inside of lower teeth
  • Teeth that grow in behind or in front of the other permanent teeth

Why not just wait and fix it later?

Although our upper and lower jaws grow in size up to adulthood, the U-shaped ring of bone that holds our teeth has reached its maximum width before age 10. Early treatment in certain cases is essential to create room to allow room for future adult teeth. If overall space is “lost” in a child, it must be regained as soon as possible to avoid further development of problems.

Many orthodontic problems cannot be addressed during Early Prevention (Phase I) treatment. These include alignment of all permanent teeth and correction of major bite issues. Most bites issues should be corrected when a patient is nearing or in their “peak growth period”. If Phase I treatment is necessary, we will use a retainer after treatment to hold the correction and observe your child until it is the proper age for a full orthodontic evaluation.

I have been told that my child is not “breathing properly” and if I fix it now, they may not need braces later.

Breathing and its role in child bone development is a hot topic in dentistry and all parents and orthodontists want to do what is possible to help our kids grow properly and avoid later problems. In January 2019 at the national conference for the American Associations of Orthodontists (AAO) the current scientific evidence covering the topics of breathing, sleeping, and growth in children were presented.

At this time, there no recommendation for any uses of appliances, physical therapy, or diet/medication to proactively treat future problems associated with breathing, or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
At this time, there is no recommendation to proactively clip the tissue under the tongue (frenulectomy) in an attempt to treat future problems associated with breathing, or OSA.

It is recommended by the AAO that if OSA is suspected, that patient should be referred to a medical doctor, preferably a sleep disorder physician or ENT, to properly diagnose OSA. The orthodontist and/or pediatric dentist may be part of the treatment recommended by the medical doctor.