At our dental clinic, we believe prevention is always better than a cure, and this is particularly true when talking about dentistry for kids. Early pediatric dental assessments are key to a lifetime of good dental health, and early orthodontic assessments are just as important for long-term alignment of the teeth and jaws.
While the issue of alignment may appear to some as primarily cosmetic in nature, this could not be further from the truth. Misaligned teeth, incorrect bites, overcrowding, and other orthodontic issues can result in poor oral hygiene that leads to tooth decay and gum disease, or cause jaw problems such as TMJ.
The AAO (American Association of Orthodontists) recommends children have their first orthodontic assessment no later than the age of seven. At this age, children usually have a good mix of primary and permanent adult teeth, allowing the dentist to determine the types of orthodontic issues the child may be at risk of. This allows for preventive measures to be taken, greatly reducing the risk of having braces and other invasive and costly orthodontic procedures in the future.
While children’s dental care is primarily focused on preventive measures such as regular professional teeth cleaning, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, space maintainers, and custom mouth guards, remedial measures are also highly valuable and needed. The following are some of the most commonly performed children’s dental treatment procedures.
Correct Harmful Oral Habits
Forming and maintaining good oral habits early is key to effective dentistry for kids. Some common habits among babies and children such as thumb (or pacifier) sucking, and mouth-breathing can actually result in long-term orthodontic problems. Though some children grow out of thumb sucking at an early enough age not to cause issues, when it extends past the toddler stage, it can affect the positioning of a child’s baby teeth, which then can hinder the growth of their adult teeth in the future.
Mouth breathing, on the other hand, is a habit that many children don’t grow out of, and it can result in significant overbites. This can lead to other alignment issues as well as cause snoring and sleep apnea.
Only your pediatric dental specialist or orthodontist can assess whether these habits are harmful to your child and provide treatments to help break them.
Better Oral Hygiene & Overall Health
One of the primary focuses in dentistry for kids is in maintaining good oral hygiene. Crooked, overlapping, and crowded teeth makes it very difficult to clean and floss teeth effectively, which can then lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Early orthodontic assessment can lead to effective preliminary treatments that help the erupting adult teeth to grow in straight from the beginning. When your child’s teeth are straight, brushing and flossing become much more effective so that their oral hygiene is maintained.
Straight, healthy teeth also benefit your child’s overall health. Proper chewing aids the digestive system, and children with healthier teeth and gums have been shown to have a lower prevalence of heart issues, early diabetes, and other health issues.
Avoid More Costly Orthodontic Treatments
While a growing number of parents are beginning to understand the importance of dentistry for kids, there is still an assumption that orthodontic treatments and evaluation can only begin once all their child’s adult teeth have erupted. This normally takes place in the form of braces, which are often costly, uncomfortable, and involves several years of treatment, or even oral surgery. In most cases, this could have been avoided, or at least minimized, with a combination of early orthodontic assessment and minor preventive measures.
Your pediatric dental specialist or orthodontist can help detect any potential orthodontic problems before they arise in order to aid in correct development of your child’s teeth and jaw.
Common Orthodontic Conditions
Some of the most common orthodontic conditions include bite issues, such as crossbites, overbites, underbites, and open bites; overcrowding of teeth in the mouth; crooked teeth; excessive spacing; protrusion or overjet; and abnormal eruptions.
All of these conditions can cause problems with the jaw that can result in TMJ and even headaches and migraines, not to mention other dental health issues such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Our dentistry for kids programs focus on the prevention of these issues before they arise so that your child doesn’t have to needlessly suffer some of their long-term consequences.
Preventive Orthodontic Treatments
Our most common preventive orthodontic treatment in dentistry for kids is space maintainers. These help maintain the space between your child’s teeth after a baby tooth is lost and guides the erupting adult tooth to grow in in correct alignment. This is especially important if a tooth is lost prematurely or if your child’s pediatric dentist or orthodontist assesses that there is a risk of misaligned growth.
Other treatments may include removable head gear to help reposition the jaw and create space, tooth extraction to make room for erupting teeth if there is overcrowding, and palatal expanders for thumb sucking.