Early Treatment

When is the best time to begin orthodontics?

Though an orthodontist can enhance a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment. Beginning treatment at this time sometimes ensures the greatest result and the least amount of time and expense. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that the initial orthodontic evaluation should occur at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age 7. At this early age orthodontic treatment is, in most cases, not necessary, but vigilant examination can anticipate the most advantageous time to begin treatment.

What are the benefits of early orthodontic evaluation?

Early evaluation provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Prudent intervention guides growth and development, may prevent serious problems later. When orthodontic intervention is not necessary, an orthodontist can carefully monitor growth and development and begin treatment when it is ideal.

When is early treatment indicated?

This question will be answered at the initial consultation, but there are a few situations which typically benefit from early treatment.

  • Harmful habits:  Thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or mouth breathing can cause the jaws to grow in a way that may make it more difficult to achieve the optimal result if these habits are not addressed early.
  • Jaw discrepancies:  A posterior cross bite, where the upper teeth are not in a wider arc than the lower teeth, often causes the lower jaw to shift to the side upon closure, resulting in asymmetric growth of the lower jaw. An anterior cross bite (under bite): If this is caused by excessive lower jaw growth or insufficient upper jaw growth, it should be addressed at a young age. There is strong evidence that early treatment can help prevent a surgical correction later.
  • Severe crowding:  A severe lack of room may cause the erupting permanent teeth to become impacted. Sometimes, the selective extraction of baby teeth and/or placement of a space maintainer will prevent a more severe orthodontic problem in the future.

When is early treatment NOT indicated?

An article in The Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2010 titled "The 8-Year-Old With a Perfect Smile" helped answer this question. Early treatment almost always results in more time and more money since the majority of early treatment kids do require treatment again as a teenager when the remaining teeth erupt.

Problems like spacing, minor to moderate crowding, and overbites do not need to be addressed early unless self-esteem is an issue.

In treating overbites, "studies indicate there aren't measurable benefits to early treatment. Starting treatment early for this condition usually means a second phase of treatment is coming and with no guarantee it will be any easier than without early treatment. For this condition, early treatment also usually means longer overall treatment time and a higher bill at the end."

There is no charge for a consultation, and Dr. Halvorsen is not eager to do early treatment unless the end result--the lifelong smile and bite--will be better by doing so.

What are the advantages of interceptive treatment?

Some of the most direct results of interceptive treatment are:

  • Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth
  • Creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth
  • Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
  • Preserving space for unerupted teeth