How Interceptive Orthodontics Can Help Your Child

Moss Healthcare Dentistry is a strong advocate of early childhood preventative dental care – identifying and treating dental problems before they become critical.

Preventative dentistry also includes interceptive orthodontics because the advantages of early orthodontic intervention are numerous. Treatment started at an opportune time offers the best possible outcomes for your child’s facial development, dentition, speech, breathing, and self-esteem.

In many cases, it is helpful to start orthodontic treatment before all the permanent (adult) teeth come in.

Your dentist can do an orthodontic screening to find out if your child will need treatment to correct any emerging problems.

An interceptive orthodontic screening can help with:

  1. Early identification and management of habits that can have a negative impact on the best formation and growth of teeth such as thumb or finger sucking, or bruxism (chronic teeth grinding).
  2. Early assessment and control of growth vectors such as the development of the palate, management of potential problems due to missing teeth, teeth that have failed to erupt, and growth discrepancies between the upper and lower jaw.
  3. Preservation and enhancement of self-image and self-esteem. The results of interceptive orthodontics can have a positive impact on facial growth and appearance and improve the mechanics of articulation in speech.
  4. Interceptive orthodontics supports healthy social and emotional development in pre-teen years.

How to tell if your child could benefit from interceptive orthodontics:

The following are indicators that your child should visit the dentist for an interceptive orthodontic screening:

  1. Difficulty in biting or chewing food: This challenge can be caused by an overbite or under-bite, which is called malocclusion. When the upper jaw is bigger than the lower jaw, it’s called an overbite. When the lower jaw is more prominent, it’s called an under-bite.
  2. Crossbite: There are two types of crossbites: anterior crossbites and posterior crossbites. A posterior crossbite is what occurs when the upper teeth fall inside the lower teeth on one side when you bite down. An anterior crossbite, which is similar to an underbite, is what occurs when the top front teeth fall behind the lower front teeth when you bite down.

Both types of crossbites can be corrected and the sooner they are remedied, the better. Left untreated, crossbites can cause health problems ranging from facial misalignment, jaw grinding, receding gum line, loss of teeth, and jaw pain.

The best time to correct a crossbite is as a child or teenager. There are treatments available for adults as well, but the earlier the crossbite is detected and treated, the better. Most crossbites are remedied by adjusting the teeth or jaw using orthodontic treatments and appliances.

  1. Thumb or finger sucking that continues after age five: Pressure from the thumb or finger(s) on the front teeth and the upper jaw can cause the teeth to move apart and the jaws to change shape creating an “open bite.”

Tongue thrusting, where the force of the tongue pushes forward against the teeth can also cause an open bite.

  1. Loss of deciduous (baby teeth) too early or late: Children typically lose baby teeth beginning about age five, and ending at age 13. Baby teeth hold and maintain space for permanent teeth until they are fully developed and ready to erupt.

If baby teeth fall out too quickly, whether naturally or due to trauma, this space may close causing over-crowding and misalignment, which if not corrected, can lead to extractions later on in childhood.

Similarly, when a baby tooth stays in place for too long, it can cause the erupting permanent teeth to be crooked or overcrowded.

  1. Crooked and or crowded teeth at around seven or eight years: This can lead to uneven wear and oral hygiene challenges including plaque build-up and dental cavities. It can be challenging to floss and brush overcrowded teeth effectively.
  2. Mouth breathing: Prolonged mouth breathing leads to muscular and postural alterations, which, in turn, cause dentoskeletal changes. Untreated mouth breathing leads to underdeveloped jaws and reduced tongue and airway space, which can cause obstructive sleep apnoea later in life. [i]

Seven is the ideal age for an assessment.

Child with orthodontic appliance. Boy holds an orthodontic appliance in his hand

There is little to no tooth loss between the ages of eight and ten, so the Canadian Dental Association recommends that seven is the ideal age for your child to have an interceptive orthodontic screening with your family dentist.

At age seven the location of permanent teeth can be determined more accurately, teeth are still developing, and the jaw is still growing, so certain conditions such as crowding may be easier to address.

What treatments are available with interceptive orthodontics?

  1. Space maintainers: Help new teeth come into a better position by holding existing teeth in place until new growth is complete. Without spacers, existing teeth often drift into the area where the next tooth will emerge, causing overcrowding.
  2. Palatal expanders: Taking advantage of the fact that at age seven a child’s jaw is still growing, a palatal expander can be used to widen a too narrow upper dental arch thus giving adult teeth a chance to emerge in the best position with less chance of overcrowding and later extractions.
  3. Strategic extractions: If, despite early intervention, teeth are still crowded after they have all erupted, some permanent teeth may have to be extracted to make space for teeth to align properly.
  4. Finger sucking and tongue thrusting deterrents: Your dentist can provide appliances to help decrease or eliminate habits that threaten the best development of your child’s mouth, jaw, and teeth.

Interceptive orthodontics does not always prevent the need for further orthodontic treatments in adolescence, but if more treatment is needed later it may be shorter and less involved.

Address crossbites as soon as possible

Crossbites and protruding front teeth require early intervention however, to ensure that jaws grow evenly and that front teeth that stick out are protected from injury from falls or sports.

Regular check-ups are important.

Regular check-ups after your child’s first tooth emerges are crucial to ensuring the healthy development of the jaw and the teeth that come later. Your child will benefit most from routine visits to the dentist and hygienist both for preventative care and the establishment of life-long oral health.

Contact us at Moss Healthcare and make an appointment for your child’s check-up today.

[i] Valera FC, Travitzki LV, Mattar SE, Matsumoto MA, Elias AM, Anselmo-Lima WT. Muscular, functional and orthodontic changes in pre school children with enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Int J Pediatric Otorhinolaryngol. 2003;67(7):761–70. [PubMed]