Early Treatment

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When Earlier Treatment Is Better

As your Charlottesville and Zion Crossroads orthodontists, Dr. Barton Weis and Dr. Taylor Varner treat patients of all ages and believe that it’s never too late to begin orthodontic treatment. Our Charlottesville orthodontists also believe that earlier orthodontic evaluation may be best for optimal results from orthodontic treatment.

 Orthodontic Problems.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, kids should have an initial orthodontic screening at age 7, when the first adult molars have emerged. What makes early evaluation - and potentially, early treatment - so important? Seeing your local Zion Crossroads and Charlottesville children’s orthodontist at an early age will allow us to:

  • Monitor your child's growth patterns. Early evaluation doesn’t necessarily mean early orthodontic treatment, but rather, we simply monitor your child’s growth patterns until we see that it’s time for any necessary treatment to begin.
  • Have an opportunity to get the best results in the most efficient way, and to help prevent future orthodontic problems.
  • Get a handle on the basic alignment of the teeth and determine whether there is adequate room in the mouth for all of the permanent teeth.

Correcting Orthodontic Problems with Early Treatment

Our Charlottesville and Zion Crossroads kids’ orthodontists usually begin treatment for common orthodontic problems when the patient is around age 9 to 14, when all of the baby teeth are gone and many of the permanent teeth are in place. However, there are some orthodontic conditions that are much easier to treat if they're caught at an early age. 

Common orthodontic problems that are best addressed with early orthodontic treatment include:

Crossbite.Crossbite - A condition where the upper teeth close inside the lower teeth, it is treated by using a device called a palatal expander, which gradually and painlessly widens the upper jaw. This form of treatment is especially effective when the jaw itself hasn't fully developed. If you wait too long to seek treatment at Charlottesville Orthodontics, a more complicated treatment — or even oral surgery — might be required to correct the problem. 

Crowding.Severe Crowding - This occurs when the jaws are too small to accommodate all of the permanent teeth. Either palatal expansion or baby tooth extraction may be recommended at this point to help the adult teeth erupt (emerge from below the gums) properly. Even if braces will need to be applied by Dr. Weis or Dr. Varner later, the treatment time will likely be shorter and less complicated.

Impacted Teeth - When a tooth that hasn't erupted yet and is blocked by other teeth, widening the upper jaw can allow it to erupt into proper position on its own.  

Protruding teeth.Protruding teeth - Teeth that protrude or stick out, especially in front, can be prone to chipping and fractures, and may also lead to problems with a child's self-image. Braces can correct the alignment of teeth that are protruding.

Underbite - This bite, caused by the lower jaw growing much larger than the upper jaw, can result in serious bite problems. Orthodontic appliances, including braces and headgear, can be successfully used between 6 and 10 years old to correct these problems at this stage, when the child's development is in full swing, thereby increasing the chances that surgery can be avoided.

 Dangers of Thumb Sucking.

Thumb Sucking or Tongue Thrusting Habits - The continued habit of thumbsucking causes a patient to have an open bite where the pressure of the finger on the front teeth and upper jaw cause the teeth to move apart and the jaws to change shape, potentially impairing speech. An open bite can also be caused by the force of the tongue pushing forward against the teeth (tongue thrusting).  

Mouth Breathing - This abnormal breathing pattern arises when the mouth is always open, passing air directly to the lungs. It is related to alterations in the muscular function of the tongue and face and may cause the upper and lower jaw to grow abnormally, which can lead to serious orthodontic problems. Although mouth breathing may start from a physical difficulty, it can become a habitual action that's hard to break.

Some of these potential problems aren’t always easy to recognize, which is why we recommend you bring your child into Charlottesville Orthodontics for an early orthodontic screening.

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Palatal Expanders and Children’s Orthodontics

Narrow palate.Various orthodontic treatments are available at our Charlottesville, Zion Crossroads, and Hollymead / 29 North offices to help correct these common orthodontic problems seen in younger patients. Many of these common children’s orthodontic issues can be corrected with a palatal expander, which is designed to 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 widened and stabilized over a period of several months. Using a palatal expander allows our Charlottesville orthodontists to take full advantage of a young patient’s own natural growth process to treat or even prevent malocclusions (misaligned bites).

Crossbite.As described previously, the three situations that most commonly call for maxillary expansion are crossbite, crowding, and impacted teeth. Expanding the upper jaw has other benefits too. It can broaden the smile is an aesthetically pleasing way, can limit the number of teeth that need to be removed to create space, and can also improve breathing.

 How palatal expanders work.

Expanders work in that:

  • The expander is custom-made for each patient 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 and is activated by turning the screw a small amount each day with a special key.
  • The tension created at the junction of the two palatal bones causes the bones to gradually move apart.
  • Once the desired expansion is achieved, Dr. Weis or Dr. Varner will leave the appliance in for a few more months (about 3 to 6 months) to allow new bone to form in the gap and stabilize the expansion.

If undergoing early orthodontic treatment with an expander, your child can expect:

  • Feeling soreness or pressure after the expander key is turned
  • Having difficulty speaking and eating normally as he/she adjusts to the presence of the orthodontic appliance
  • Seeing a gap develop between the front teeth, which is desired and shows the effectiveness of treatment

Begin Early Orthodontic Treatment with Charlottesville Orthodontics

Seeing an orthodontic specialist sooner rather than later will ensure common orthodontic issues are taken care of, minimizing the damage they may cause, and make any necessary future orthodontic treatment less extensive and complicated. Therefore, it is important to bring your child in for an early orthodontic screening done by our expert local orthodontists, Dr. Weis and Dr. Varner. If you have any questions about early orthodontic treatment or want to book a complimentary consultation for your child, contact our Charlottesville, Zion Crossroads, or Hollymead / 29 North offices. Our professional team of experts will be happy to assist you. You can also request an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you and helping your child achieve an amazing smile that will last a lifetime!

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