Early orthodontic treatment

When it comes to your child’s teeth and visiting the orthodontist, did you know that earlier may be better than later? According to the American Association of Orthodontists, kids should have an initial orthodontic screening at age 7. At Charlottesville Orthodontics, we want to catch orthodontic problems before they cause too much damage. This way, our children’s orthodontist in Zion Crossroads can limit your child’s overall treatment time.

Why visit a kid’s orthodontist?

At Charlottesville Orthodontics, we believe there are several ways that kids can benefit from seeing an orthodontist at an early age. It’s important to recognize that early evaluation isn’t necessarily followed by early treatment. In most cases, if orthodontic work is needed, your children’s orthodontist in Zion Crossroads will simply monitor your child’s growth patterns until it’s time for treatment to begin. This gives us an opportunity to get the best results in the most efficient way, and to help prevent future problems.

Although every child’s development is different, in most kids the first adult molars have typically started to emerge by around age six. This, along with other developmental markers, lets us get a handle on the basic alignment of the teeth, from front to back and side to side.

When earlier treatment is better In Charlottesville & Zion Crossroads

Treatment for common orthodontic problems typically begins around age 9-14, when all of the baby teeth are gone. There are some conditions that are much easier to treat if they’re caught at an early age, when a child’s natural growth processes are going full speed ahead, these include:

Correcting bad habits with your children's orthodontist in Charlottesville & Zion Crossroads

There are some situations where a child’s habits can actually influence the development and function of his or her teeth, jaws, and mouth. Some examples of these are persistent thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and mouth breathing.

  • Thumb sucking: the sucking reflex is natural in early childhood; it usually disappears between ages 2 and 4. If it persists much later, the pressure of the finger on the front teeth and the upper jaw can actually cause the teeth to move apart and the jaws to change shape. This can lead to the orthodontic problem called “open bite,” and may impair speech.
  • Tongue thrusting: An open bite can also be caused by the force of the tongue pushing forward against the teeth in a motion called tongue thrusting.
  • Mouth breathing: an abnormal breathing pattern in which the mouth always remains open, passing air directly to the lungs. It is related to alterations in the muscular function of the tongue and face. It may cause the upper and lower jaw to grow abnormally, which can lead to serious orthodontic problems.

Various early orthodontic treatments are available to help correct these childhood habits. That’s one more reason why you should bring your child in for an early orthodontic screening. The sooner you see your children’s orthodontist in Zion Crossroads, the sooner their teeth will be on the right path for life.

  • Palatal expanders and children’s orthodontics

    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).

    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.

    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. Patel 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. Patel. 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!