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Early Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment is primarily used to prevent and correct “bite” irregularities.  Several factors may contribute to such irregularities, including genetic factors, the early loss of primary (baby) teeth, and damaging oral habits (such as thumb sucking and developmental problems).

Orthodontic irregularities may be present at birth or develop during toddlerhood or early childhood.  Crooked teeth hamper self-esteem and make good oral homecare difficult, whereas straight teeth help minimize the risk of tooth decay and childhood periodontal disease.

During biannual preventative visits, your pediatric dentist is able to utilize many diagnostic tools to monitor orthodontic irregularities and, if necessary, implement early intervention strategies.  Children should have an initial orthodontic evaluation before the age of eight.

Why does early orthodontic treatment make sense?

Some children display early signs of minor orthodontic irregularities.  In such cases, your pediatric dentist might choose to monitor the situation over time without providing intervention.  However, for children who display severe orthodontic irregularities, early orthodontic treatment can provide many benefits, including:

  • Enhanced self-confidence and aesthetic appearance.
  • Increased likelihood of proper jaw growth.
  • Increased likelihood of properly aligned and spaced adult teeth.
  • Reduced risk of bruxing (grinding of teeth).
  • Reduced risk of childhood cavities, periodontal disease, and tooth decay.
  • Reduced risk of impacted adult teeth.
  • Reduced risk of protracted orthodontic treatments in later years.
  • Reduced risk of speech problems.
  • Reduced risk of tooth, gum, and jawbone injury.

When can my child begin early orthodontic treatment?

Pediatric dentists recognize three age-related stages of orthodontic treatment.  These stages are described in detail below.

Stage 1: Early treatment (2-6 years old)

Early orthodontic treatment aims to guide and regulate the width of both dental arches.  The main goal of early treatment is to provide enough space for the permanent teeth to erupt correctly.  Good candidates for early treatment include: children who have difficulty biting properly, children who lose baby teeth early, children whose jaws click or grind during movement, bruxers, and children who use the mouth (as opposed to the nose AND mouth) to breathe.

During the early treatment phase, your pediatric dentist works with parents and children to eliminate orthodontically harmful habits, like excessive pacifier use and thumb sucking.  The dentist may also provide one of a variety of dental appliances to promote jaw growth, hold space for adult teeth (space maintainers), or to prevent the teeth from “shifting” into undesired areas.

Stage 2: Middle dentition (6-12 years old)

The goals of middle dentition treatments are to realign wayward jaws, to start to correct crossbites, and to begin the process of gently straightening misaligned permanent teeth.  Middle dentition marks a developmental period when the soft and hard tissues are extremely pliable.  In some ways therefore, it marks an optimal time to begin to correct a severe malocclusion.

Again, the dentist may provide the child with a dental appliance.  Some appliances (like braces) are fixed and others are removable.  Regardless of the appliance, the child will still be able to speak, eat, and chew in a normal fashion.  However, children who are fitted with fixed dental appliances should take extra care to clean the entire oral region each day in order to reduce the risk of staining, decay, and later cosmetic damage.

Stage 3: Adolescent dentition (13+ years old)

Adolescent dentition is what springs to most parents’ minds when they think of orthodontic treatment.  Some of the main goals of adolescent dentition include straightening the permanent teeth and improving the aesthetic appearance of the smile.

Most commonly during this period, the dentist will provide fixed or removable “braces” to gradually straighten the teeth.  Upon completion of the orthodontic treatment, the adolescent may be required to wear a retainer in order to prevent the regression of the teeth to their original alignment.

If you have questions or concerns about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office.


Read what people are saying about us.

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After many years of being self-conscious about my smile due to an overbite and overlapping teeth, I decided to have a consult about having braces (preferably Invisalign). Due to all the correction needed, wire braces were my only option. After 5 years of various correction procedures I am now proud of my smile. Dr. Jeff and the staff were always prompt and very encouraging during each visit.

~Sandy V.S.

I had an appointment this morning for a crown prep. I was seated a few minutes before my actual appointment time. I was seen immediately by the assistant who prepped me for my local anesthetic. The anesthetic was given gently and painlessly. When I was thoroughly numb the procedure was started and finished in a shorter time than I had thought it might be. I was happy with all the services I received. Everyone from office staff to those assisting and performing the services were courteous and efficient. Dr. Dahm was his usual friendly professional self. I would recommend this dental practice to anyone needing dental care.

~Sue S. (October 2016)

I know, through my own work experience, that working with the public can be trying at times, and sometimes it is difficult not to fall into a "negative" mode, which really does none of us any good. I am not sure whether a "negative" atmosphere shows its face when dealing with people, as much as a "positive" atmosphere does, or not. I am inclined to think not, but anyway, I would like to say that I am proud of everyone in your office, for creating and keeping that "positive" atmosphere, for all of us patients, because it truly does make a difference in the way we feel while we are there, and when we leave the office. I don't ever remember giggling several times during a dentist appointment, but couldn't help myself yesterday morning, as Dr. Dahm moved through the office, greeting, reassuring, and caring for people. The girls who helped me through the x-rays, molds, and other necessary procedures were awesome, as well! "Good Job", "You're doing great", etc., while in a place where most people are a little uncomfortable, at best, is so nice to hear. And, when I was confused about just where in my mouth my filling would go, the girls were so kind in explaining that they really were going to work on the correct tooth. LOL! I am running on here, but I think too often in business, the main feedback that people get, is the negative stuff. I have always tried to counter that, by letting people know when I really do appreciate what they have done "for" me, instead of "to" me, and I will be the first to admit that trust does not always come easy for me - just the way I am. And, I feel that an establishment's "true colors" show in instances like I had yesterday, when I needed some reassurance that everything was okay. I am so appreciative of the way everyone handled that (sorry that I took up precious time), but now I know, that if/when I truly do need help, it will be there, and given in a kind and understanding manner. That means a LOT to me! So, in closing, in the middle of the night, during my usual "awake" time, I just kept thinking WOW! I just don't know of a better way to express my feelings! And, of course, THANK YOU to everyone in that office, because it takes every person in an environment like that to maintain a caring and positive atmosphere! I notice and I appreciate all of it, and I would recommend anyone I know to become a patient there!

Pam B.

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