Do you need to consider orthodontic treatment for your child? That's a good question.
Crowded teeth and jaw size discrepancies may become apparent in children from a young age. But children may not be concerned about these developments until they become more socially mature or self aware. They may then ask you about having orthodontic treatment. But child orthodontics should begin much earlier.
Orthodontics for children is best timed so a child's growth can assist the course of the orthodontic treatment.
When to Begin Orthodontic Treatment?
The Australian Society of Orthodontists recommends the best time to assess your child’s dental alignment and jaw growth is at the first sign of an orthodontic problem or by the age of 7. The best time for treatment may then range from 7-14 years of age. Jaw growth and development may be guided and manipulated more easily with a timely detection of orthodontic problems, providing a greater opportunity for more effective treatment.
Accurate Orthodontic Assessment
Accurate skeletal and dental diagnosis is key to achieving good treatment outcomes. The timing and type of treatment chosen will affect the look of your child’s future adult face and smile, optimise the development of your child's airway (influencing breathing patterns, posture, future risks of snoring and sleep apnea, teeth grinding and the potential for headaches and migraines), and hence, long-term oral and general health. Appropriate retention after bands are removed will also help minimize the likelihood of treatment relapse (teeth re-crowding).
Referrals to Specialist Orthodontists
At Melbourne Dentistry, we believe specialist Orthodontists know how to best take advantage of the opportunities that growing jaws provide for corrective treatment. We therefore refer all our orthodontic patients to trusted specialist Orthodontists who utilize the latest advances in technology.
Orthodontists understand diagnosis, the effects of growth, facial aesthetics, treatment choices and retention to an advanced level. They have your child’s best interests at heart and are best able to achieve the most pleasing aesthetic and long-term functional results.
Preparing for Orthodontic Treatment - Before Commencing Orthodontics
Your child’s mouth should be healthy prior to commencing orthodontic treatment. This is important because orthodontics may make both dental treatment and oral hygiene more challenging. If dental problems arise during orthodontic care, your child’s treatment may be delayed or interrupted. Also, it is vital that teeth are not weakened or damaged by orthodontics because of unattended dental problems, poor hygiene or poor dietary choices during the treatment period.
At Melbourne Dentistry, we recommend your child have a comprehensive dental examination with radiographs (to Bite-Wing radiographic standard) prior to orthodontic referral. General dental needs may then be addressed prior to starting treatment. Dental decay can be restored promptly and appropriate remineralisation therapies (such as topical tooth strengthening treatments) prescribed. We can teach you and your child how to best clean and maintain their teeth before commencing orthodontic care.
Orthodontic treatment should also be supported with preventive dental care throughout the treatment period. Orthodontics may often take up to 2 years. Children may find it difficult to consistently clean well around bands. Poor hygiene around bands will cause gums to swell, bleed, and hurt during orthodontic treatment. Additionally for some children, this gum inflammation (gingivitis), may lead to future gum shrinkage or gum disease.
When oral hygiene is consistently poor, tooth enamel surfaces are at risk of damage or weakness (demineralisation) often termed ‘white spot lesions’. If they occur, white spots will remain as permanent ‘scars’ on tooth enamel and can diminish the appearance of your child’s smile after orthodontics is completed. White spot areas may even progress to tooth decay - cavities that require fillings in the future.
Regular dental review at our practice will assist with oral hygiene consistency and enable professional remineralisation therapies to support the health of teeth and gums to ultimately achieve a successful orthodontic result for your child – a beautiful and healthy smile.
Additionally, it is essential to protect your child’s smile from sports trauma during orthodontics. Both your child's teeth and their orthodontic treatment could be damaged during play in contact sports. Orthodontic brackets and wires may even cause injury to other players. If your child participates in contact sports, we can advise on the most appropriate custom fitted mouth guards, as their orthodontic program progresses, to minimise their risk of dental trauma during play.
On Completing Orthodontics
When your child has completed orthodontic treatment, a thorough dental examination is once again recommended. Your child’s teeth should be professionally cleaned, ensuring any residual orthodontic cement is removed. Remineralising therapies can then be prescribed to help strengthen enamel surfaces bonded during orthodontic treatment.
Our hygiene advice for maintaining specific retainers will support your child’s home routine during the retention phase. We also recommend maintaining at least six monthly dental check ups, thereafter, to encourage your child to protect the investments made in orthodontics, and their life-long dental health, as they move through the teenage years toward independence and adulthood.