Does my Child Really Need Early Braces?

It is becoming common to see young children, often many years from having all their adult teeth, with a set of braces. As orthodontists, we often are asked by parents why there has been such a significant increase in the number of children receiving early orthodontic treatment. Has there been a new study or research promoting the efficacy and efficiency of early treatment? Is there an orthodontic epidemic in Northern Colorado? The truth is that the increase in early treatment is not supported by sound evidence, but more likely an effect of the highly saturated and competitive dental and orthodontic markets—locally and nationally. If your orthodontist says everyone benefits from early treatment, it is probably time to seek a second opinion. Because according to the strongest research available, a majority of patients do not need to begin orthodontic treatment before most of the permanent teeth have erupted. In our clinical experience, only 5-10% of younger patients benefit significantly from early treatment.

Despite the fact that a small minority of young patients would benefit from early orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a screening by an orthodontist by age 7. Why do we agree with this recommendation? For those 5-10% of patients needing early treatment, it can help prevent more complicated and expensive treatment later in life, including the need for jaw surgery, extractions, or impacted teeth. For the other 90-95% of patients, it creates peace of mind and is a first step in developing a relationship with your orthodontist to monitor growth and development to determine the appropriate time to begin treatment if needed in the future.

Most parents should be asking themselves if they would choose to put their children through multiple expensive rounds of braces, missing more school and work, when we can obtain the same result in a single round of treatment? Seems like an easy decision, but unless your child is screened you would not know in which category he or she falls—making early detection a vital component of early oral health. If you have more questions, please contact our office to schedule a complimentary exam, consultation and digital x-rays . An additional great source of information from the American Association of Orthodontists highlights potential problems to watch for in developing mouths.