Ever wonder why you see so many elementary school children in braces? As a parent do you feel you are missing something? The answer is, “probably not.” It is true the number of young children getting orthodontic treatment has grown significantly over the past decade according to the American Association of Orthodontists, but, there are only a small number of orthodontic problems where early orthodontic treatment has been scientifically documented to provide a significant and long lasting benefit. Most orthodontic problems are more efficiently and effectively treated during the teen years when the patients have most all of their adult teeth and are physically maturing. The thought that the more early treatment a child gets – that is, before all the adult teeth have come in – the less treatment the child will need later on is only true in some cases.
Most orthodontic problems that are more effectively treated at a young age are skeletal ones – those involving the jaws. One such problem is when the child has a narrow upper arch resulting in a crossbite. This is when the upper teeth do not line up with the lower teeth properly, often causing the child to shift their jaw towards one side. If untreated, this type of problem can lead to a permanent asymmetry of the lower jaw as an adult.
Underbites, where the upper jaw is retruded, are much more effectively treated in someone 8 or 9 years of age. These cases respond favorably to facemask therapy where traction is applied to the upper jaw bringing it forward. This relatively benign nighttime treatment has been shown to be ineffective during adolescence but when employed in young children can often alleviate the need for jaw surgery as an adult.
For parents, the tricky part is figuring out if early treatment for your child is money and time well spent. This is when you need to be able to trust your orthodontist: One that can diagnose your child’s orthodontic problems and recommend treatment or no treatment based on the current scientific evidence. When in doubt, get a second opinion. After all, it is your time, your money and most of all, your child.
For more information, contact William G. Horbaly, DDS, MS, MDS at 240 Hydraulic Ridge Rd., Suite 202 Charlottesville, VA 22901. (434) 973-6542. WWW.HORBALYORTHO.COM