Certain situations that involve problems with the development of the teeth and jaws may be intercepted early in order to prevent more severe issues in the future. This intervention may involve guiding the eruption of permanent teeth and monitoring further dental development, or it may involve changing certain habits that interfere with dental and jaw development, such as thumb sucking. In other situations, limited orthodontic treatment may be required to permit the appropriate development of teeth and jaws. Such treatment may take place between the ages of 7 to 10, but may vary depending on the specific problems and individual growth patterns.
Interceptive treatment reduces the risk for more serious problems to develop, and may make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated.
Problems that may require early intervention include:
- Severely crowded or impacted teeth
- Severely protruded teeth that have an increased risk for trauma
- Inability to bite properly or close the mouth
- Thumb or finger sucking habits
- Crossbites and underbites, where the upper teeth bite inside or behind the lower teeth
- Shifting of the jaw to the side or forward in order to bite together
- Significant facial asymmetry
- Significant esthetic concerns that affect self-esteem
If any of these problems are noted by the dentist or parents, regardless of age, it is advisable to consult an orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends the first orthodontic checkup no later than age 7, but it may be earlier if attention is necessary.