Orthodontic Treatment For Children | Specialist Riverview Orthodontist | Hess Orthodontics

Orthodontic treatment for children

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child receives his or her first orthodontic screening by age 7. By starting treatment early, we are able to recognize potential problems and correct them before they become more serious. This will save you and your child time and money by preventing future problems before they begin.

Early interceptive orthodontic treatment has proven to be beneficial for the overall desired result. Because a young child's permanent teeth have not finished erupting, we are able to thoroughly evaluate and address any impending problems at the earliest stage.

During your child's initial evaluation, we will first determine if there are any problems that need to be addressed, such as potential crowding, open bite, overbite or gummy smiles. The Phase I treatment plan can include preventive, interceptive or modifying treatment. Orthodontic appliances may be placed to prevent a problem from occurring, correct a current problem or help direct jawbone growth. Multiple problems with tooth alignment, gums, jaws and facial problems can be corrected with Phase I treatment.

Phase II and adolescent treatment

There are several good reasons why adolescence is the optimal time for orthodontic treatment, though occasionally even earlier intervention is called for. One has to do with the development of the teeth. There's no set timetable for every kid, but generally by the age of 11-13 the deciduous (baby) teeth have all been lost, and the permanent ones have largely come in. This is the time when we can go to work correcting the problems that cause a bad bite (malocclusion), improper tooth spacing or poor alignment.

Orthodontic problems don't improve with age — they simply become harder to treat. It's easier to treat many orthodontic problems during adolescence because the body is still growing rapidly at this time. Whether we use standard braces, or appliances like palatal expanders, we can create an improved appearance and function in a short period of time. In later years, when the bones of the face and jaw are fully developed, many conditions become more difficult (and costly) to treat.

There's even a social element to getting orthodontic treatment in adolescence. If you need braces, you're not alone! Chances are you'll see some of your classmates in our office, and you may even make new friends as you go through the process together. When it's done, you'll have a smile that you can really be proud of, and benefits that will last your whole life.

Adolescent Treatment

Thumb and finger appliances

In most children, thumb sucking stops on its own between the ages of two and four years. But if the practice persists after the primary (baby) teeth have erupted, it can drastically change the growth patterns of the jaw, and cause significant misalignment of the teeth. It may be hard to believe that such a benign habit can actually move teeth and bone — but there are a number reasons why this occurs.

Children's jaws, rich in blood supply and growing rapidly, are relatively soft and flexible — especially in kids under the age of eight. So it really isn't hard for the constant pressure of a thumb or finger to deform the soft bone around the upper and lower front teeth. Children who are particularly vigorous thumb suckers are even more likely to change the growth patterns of the teeth and jaws.

If the thumb sucking habit persists, it can result in the upper front teeth flaring out and the lower ones moving back and inward. It can also hold back the growth of the lower jaw, while causing the upper jaw to be thrust forward. This can result in misalignment of the teeth, an anterior open bite (where the front teeth fail to close together), collapse of the upper jaw causing crossbite, or other problems. That's why it is important to stop the behavior at an appropriate time, before damage occurs.

Thumb & Finger Appliances

Controlling thumb or finger sucking

Like many potentially harmful behavior patterns, thumb sucking can be a difficult habit to break. Through the years, parents have tried a variety of home remedies, such as having the child wear gloves, coating the digits with a bitter-tasting substance — and even reasoning with their toddlers. Sometimes it works — but in other cases, the allure of thumb sucking proves very difficult to control.

If your child has a thumb or finger sucking habit that has persisted past the age of three, and you've been unable to tame it, then it may be time for you to visit our office. We will consider treating your child with a “habit appliance” such as a fixed palatal crib or a removable device. This crib isn't for sleeping — it's a small metal appliance worn inside the mouth, attached to the upper teeth.

How does it work? The semicircular wires of a palatal crib keep the thumb or finger from touching the gums behind the front teeth. Simply preventing this contact seems to take all the enjoyment away from the thumb sucking habit — and without that pleasurable feedback, a child has no reason to continue the behavior. In fact, the device is often successful the first day it's worn.

Controlling Thumb or Finger Sucking

Getting and using a habit appliance

If your child could benefit from a habit appliance, the first step is to get a thorough examination, which may include taking X-rays, photographs and dental impressions. If it's recommended, a crib will then be custom-fabricated to fit your child's mouth, and placed at a subsequent appointment. Afterwards, your child will be periodically monitored until the appliance is removed — typically, a period of months.

Although wearing the crib isn't painful, your child may experience some soreness in the upper back teeth for a few hours after it's first installed. He or she may also have a little trouble falling asleep for a day or two afterward. Plenty of extra attention and TLC are usually all that's needed to make everything all right. While the appliance is being worn, it's best to avoid chewing gum and eating hard, sticky food that might cause it to come loose.

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Using a Habit Appliance

A word about tongue thrusting

Like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting is a normal behavioral pattern in young children. It's actually part of the natural infantile swallowing pattern, which will normally change on its own — by the age of six, in most children. If the pattern doesn't change, however, it can lead to problems similar to those caused by thumb sucking: namely, problems with tooth alignment and skeletal development. Fortunately, this problem can be successfully treated with a habit appliance that's very similar to a fixed palatal crib.

About Tongue Thrusting

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To find out if your child is a candidate for early interceptive treatment, book a consultation at Hess Orthodontics today and we’ll work with you to achieve the very best teeth straightening results possible.

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How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite

Thumb sucking can actually block the front teeth from erupting fully and can also push the teeth forward — sometimes more on the side where the thumb rested. How far out of position the teeth end up will depend on the number of hours per day the thumb was in the child's mouth and how much pressure was applied. When the pressure exerted by the thumb in the mouth is particularly strong and occurs over a long period of time.

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