The Australian Society of Orthodontists recommends that children have an orthodontic assessment when they are 8-10 years old. This may seem early, but this is the stage at which there may be early indications of some orthodontic issues which can start to be addressed while the development of the teeth and jaws are at a formative stage.
It is also worth getting an early orthodontic assessment where any of the following occur…
- Loss of baby teeth before the age of 5.
- Thumb (or finger) sucking after the age of 5.
- Breathing through the mouth (or snoring).
- Reverse swallowing (also referred to as 'tongue thrusting').
- Lisp or speech impediment.
- Difficulty biting and chewing.
- Teeth not closing together properly when biting.
- Crowding of front teeth.
- Front teeth jutting out (protruded teeth).
- Jaw shifting when opening or closing the mouth.
Up until the teenage years the jaw bones are still forming (jaw bones generally harden at around 17-19 years of age) and corrective treatment at this stage can guide development if any orthodontic issues are spotted.
Intervention at this earlier age can also reduce the need for treatment later when the jaw bones have finished developing. Treatment for orthodontic problems which starts in later teenage and adult years is generally more complex than earlier interventions.
A first orthodontic assessment will allow the orthodontist to check for any early signs of 'malocclusion', which is where the teeth do not close together properly – a 'bad bite'. Early treatment is often divided into two 'phases'…
- Phase 1 (which is between 7-10 years of age) is primarily relatively minor treatment to for example correct a smaller upper jaw or a crossbite.
- Phase 2 (which is between 10-13 years of age) is often when braces are fitted to correct any misalignment of teeth.
At the initial assessment a developing problem may be identified but a decision could be made to delay treatment until the best time for that child and that particular problem. The best time for treatment could be months or some years away..
Immediate treatment is often recommended where there are protruding front teeth which are vulnerable to damage (or where there is any resultant teasing happening), or where some space needs to be created for adult teeth which might otherwise become crowded.