For Children and Adults
Orthodontics for Children
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child should first be evaluated by an orthodontist by age 7 or earlier if there is a concern by the general dentist, pediatrician or parent. This visit will provide parents with information regarding their child's skeletal growth pattern and dental development, and it will help to advise parents on ideal treatment timing. In some cases the orthodontist will simply monitor the patient at 6 to 12 month intervals until the patient is ready for treatment. Usually by age 7 the first permanent molars and incisors have erupted sufficiently to allow the orthodontist to evaluate for crossbites, crowding, and skeletal problems. When treatment is begun early, the orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaw and guide incoming permanent teeth.
Benefits of Early Treatment
- Moves the front teeth back so they will be less susceptible to injury
- Uses maximum advantage of growth for successful treatment
- Takes advantage of the good cooperation of patients at this age
- Regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches
- Gain space for permanent teeth
- Reduce the need for permanent tooth extractions
- Reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth
- Correct thumb-sucking and regulate abnormal swallowing or speech problems
- Simplify later treatment
- Improve the child's self-image during formative years
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, and adults especially appreciate the benefits of a beautiful smile. Approximately 30% of our practice is comprised of adults.
Frequently asked questions about adult orthodontics:
Can orthodontic treatment do for me what it does for children?Yes. Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. Many orthodontic problems can be corrected as easily for adults as for children. Orthodontic forces move the teeth in the same way for both adults and children, but adult treatment may take longer due to the maturity of the bone. Complicating factors, such as lack of jaw growth, may create different treatment planning needs for the adult.
How does adult treatment differ from that of children and adolescents?
Adults are not growing and may have experienced some breakdown or loss of teeth and the bone that supports the teeth. Orthodontic treatment may then be only a part of the patient's overall treatment plan. Close coordination may be required among the orthodontist, oral surgeon, periodontist, endodontist and family dentist to assure that the treatment plan is managed well. Below are the most common characteristics that can cause adult treatment to differ from that of children.
No jaw growth: Jaw discrepancy problems, including both width and length, in the adult patient may require jaw surgery. For example, if adult's lower jaw is too short to match properly with the upper jaw, a severe bite problem results. The amount that the teeth can be moved in some cases, with braces alone, may not correct this problem. Establishing a proper bite relationship could require jaw surgery, which could lengthen the lower jaw and bring the lower teeth forward into the proper bite.
Gum disease or bone loss (periodontal breakdown): Adults are more likely to have experienced damage or loss of the gum and bone supporting their teeth (periodontal disease). Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. The word periodontal literally means "around the tooth." Many people are unaware that they have gum disease because there is usually little or no pain.
The good news is that teeth that properly aligned are less prone to gum disease.
Worn, damaged or missing teeth: Worn, damaged or missing teeth can make orthodontic treatment more difficult. Teeth may gradually wear and move into positions where they can be restored only after precise orthodontic movement. Damaged or broken teeth may not look good or function well even after orthodontic treatment unless they are carefully restored by the patient's dentist. Extra space resulting from missing teeth that are not replaced may cause progressive tipping and drifting of other teeth, which worsens the bite, increases the potential for periodontal problems and makes any treatment more difficult.
My teeth have been crooked for many years-why should I have orthodontics now?
It's never too late! Orthodontic treatment, when indicated, is a positive step-especially for adults who have endured a long-standing problem. Orthodontic treatment can restore good function. And teeth that work better usually look better, too. A healthy, beautiful smile can improve self-esteem, no matter the age.
My family dentist said I need to have some missing teeth replaced, but I need orthodontic treatment first-why?
Your dentist is probably recommending orthodontics so that he or she might treat you in the best manner possible to bring you to optimal dental health. Many complicated tooth restorations, such as crowns, bridges and implants, can be best accomplished when the teeth are properly aligned and the bite is correct.
When permanent teeth are lost, it is common for the remaining teeth to drift, tip or shift. This movement can create a poor bite and uneven spacing that cannot be restored properly unless the missing teeth are replaced. Tipped teeth usually need to be straightened so they can withstand normal biting pressures in the future.
I see ads for perfect teeth in only one or two visits to the dentist. Will that give me straight teeth?
Crooked teeth should be evaluated by an orthodontist so that the most appropriate treatment plan can be suggested.