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Every child should have an orthodontic evaluation as part of their routine dental examination.

young girl with braces in dental officeThe sooner orthodontic problems are detected, the faster and less difficult the treatment can be. Early orthodontic treatment (Phase I treatment) usually starts around the age of 8 or 9. At this age, the main goal of treatment is to direct jaw growth and some of the bite problems, if they exist. Early treatment could make space for permanent teeth to erupt properly, preventing the need to extract permanent teeth later. Phase II normally starts around the age of 11 or older, if needed. Interceptive treatment can begin as early as age 3, if needed, to prevent the development of orthodontic problems.

Is Orthodontic Treatment Necessary for Children?

Your child’s smile today sets the foundation for their future oral health. When that smile includes misalignment, it could have long-term consequences without early intervention.

At Orange County Pediatric Group, we provide orthodontics to help children enjoy smiles that are healthy, beautiful, and full of joy. Our skilled pediatric dentists combine years of experience with compassion and a kid-friendly approach.

Do you think your child might need braces? Contact our office and schedule a visit today!


Why Consider Orthodontics for Kids?

little girl holding tooth model with bracesMany people believe that braces are just about making teeth straight and pretty. While this is a benefit, it’s not the only reason – or even the main reason – that braces are used with children.

Your child’s teeth are still developing. It is easier to guide developing teeth into place while the mouth is more malleable than as adults.

Teeth are designed to meet and function together in specific ways. When your bite is misaligned, the teeth don’t meet properly, and can’t function the way they’re made to. Braces pull teeth into their ideal alignment, preventing a variety of oral health problems.

What are the Consequences of Misaligned Teeth?

Consequences can range from mild to dangerous depending on the dental situation. Typically, the more severe the misalignment, the more serious its effects are. Some of these consequences include:

  • Cavities from difficulty cleaning between teeth
  • Poor digestion due to chewing problems
  • Speech impediments
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) (in some cases)
  • Soft tissue damage from biting the tongue, inner cheeks, or roof of the mouth
  • Increased risk of tooth damage, such as stress fractures or chipping
  • Increased risk of injury from sports or activity

What Is the Role of Baby Teeth for Alignment?

Your child’s baby teeth are extremely important to their alignment. In addition to helping a child learn to eat and speak, baby teeth set the stage by creating a path for the adult teeth to follow. If the baby tooth doesn’t fall out naturally, the adult tooth may try to emerge around it, causing alignment problems.

If a baby tooth is unhealthy because of decay or is extracted, it can also leave the adult tooth to emerge incorrectly. Ensuring a healthy bite is one of the many reasons why it’s important to take good care of your child’s baby teeth and to keep your regular checkups.

Signs Your Child Needs Early Orthodontic Treatment

  • Very late or very early tooth loss. The first tooth usually falls out around the age of 6. By the age of 13, your child usually should have all of his or her permanent teeth.
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Bruxing (grinding)
  • Mouth breathing
  • Thumb or finger sucking after age 5
  • Tongue thrust
  • Teeth protrusion (when the top teeth stick out forward from the bottom teeth—often called an “overbite” by people)
  • Teeth don’t fit together in a normal way
  • Jaw shifting
  • Crowded or crooked teeth
  • Open bite (when the top and bottom teeth don’t overlap) or deep bite (when the top teeth overlap the bottom teeth so much that the bottom teeth are barely seen)

Common Causes of Orthodontic Problems

Spaced or crowded teeth, incorrect jaw growth, protrusive teeth, and irregular bites can be inherited from the parents or caused by:

  • Injuries and traumas
  • Late or early tooth loss
  • Long-term or vigorous thumb sucking, finger habits, or pacifier use
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Nail biting
  • Chronic mouth breathing

Orthodontic Screening

In our office, orthodontic screenings are completed at every check-up. Based on our evaluation, early treatment will be recommended, if needed. Our doctors will explain the rationale why early treatment would benefit your child and how it can help prevent the need for more extensive treatment at a later age

Benefits of Early Orthodontic Treatment

young boy with braces brushing teethChildren who receive orthodontic treatment have an opportunity to improve proper jaw growth, control the width of the dental arches, guide permanent teeth to erupt in desirable positions, and lessen the chances of injuries and traumas of protruded front teeth. Orthodontic treatment may increase your child’s self-esteem and can improve the appearance of his or her smile. Early orthodontic treatment can help relieve the tendency for some impacted teeth and simplify or even shorten the later orthodontic treatment, when it would be necessary.

The benefits of early treatment will usually prevent the need for permanent tooth extraction and jaw surgery In extreme cases, permanent tooth extraction and jaw surgery may still be necessary, but the chances are decreased with early orthodontic treatment.

How Do You Treat Children with Orthodontics?

Treatments are customized to your child’s unique smile, and early prevention methods help limit the extent of orthodontic treatment as teens or adults.

Intervening bite development before all adult teeth have emerged is the first phase of treating children with orthodontics.

What is Phase Orthodontics?

When baby teeth are still present, we refer to it as Phase One Treatment. Depending on the treatment plan, your child may receive orthodontic intervention with the need appliances such as:

Retainers – At such a young age, permanent retainers are often used to hold teeth in place, especially if Phase One treatment included brace wear. A bridge retainer is used when neighboring baby teeth are extracted to hold the adult teeth in place while new adult teeth grow in.

Spacers – When teeth are crowded, or we need to make room for other appliances, small latex-free rings are placed between teeth to increase space in a short period.

Expanders (palatal) – If the palate is too narrow to fit an aligned bite, expanders are often used to increase the space for teeth to align properly. These are used in growing children and early teens who have an open suture between the palatal bones. Once we have the palate at its optimal width, the expander is left in for additional time allowing bone to fill in and stabilize the palate.

Braces – Occasionally, young patients will need braces to move misaligned adult teeth into place giving proper spacing for more. This early intervention helps prevent complex treatment later

Occasionally, some children may need to have baby teeth extracted in conjunction with a functional dental appliance.

Most Phase One patients will continue to Phase Two Treatment once all their adult teeth have grown in. In our practice, we do extensive work during Phase One Treatment, which has allowed the permanent teeth to erupt into a more favorable position. Typically, Phase Two Treatment is fairly straightforward when we have performed Phase One Treatment and it proceeds in a shorter time period compared to Phase One Treatment

Does every child need Phase Orthodontics?

Not every patient needs two phases of orthodontics. Our doctors evaluate each patient individually. Each recommendation is based on your child's unique conditions. Some patients require Interceptive Orthodontics before Phase Orthodontics due to the nature of their orthodontic concerns. Other patients only need braces, aligners, or a retainer when all the permanent teeth have erupted. We avoid using a "cookie cutter" approach to orthodontics in our practice.

What is Interceptive Orthodontics?

Some patients have orthodontic concerns that need to be addressed to avoid a future problem. Think of it as "rerouting" when you see that there is an accident ahead of you on the road. Some patients have permanent molars that will be impacted without intervention. Other patients have a single tooth that is in crossbite. Appliances used vary based on the condition and may also depend on your child's cooperation.

Schedule Your Child’s Orthodontic Appointment

Please call Orange County Pediatric Dental Group to schedule your child’s appointment. After evaluating your child, our doctors will discuss treatment options and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate, including alternative treatments, if available. These will be based on your child’s unique needs.

Appointments can be made by calling: (714) 972-1359.