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CHICAGO— Parents often wonder: If the baby teeth are crooked, will the permanent ones come in straight? Does thumb sucking affect the child's teeth? When should we think about braces?
Most parents have questions about their children's teeth, and realize that today's orthodontic treatment begins earlier and is very different from treatment they may have experienced 20 or 30 years ago when they wore braces.
“We recommend that a child have an orthodontic evaluation by age seven,” said Spencer Pope, DDS, an orthodontist in Flossmoor, and Chicago Dental Society spokesperson. “By this age, there has been sufficient jaw growth and many of the permanent teeth have come in.”
Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry that involves the treatment of malocclusion, which is when the upper and lower teeth or jaw do not meet correctly. Children may need to be treated by an orthodontist if they have problems with their bite (such as an over- or under-bite), crooked teeth or overcrowding in the mouth.
An orthodontist may move the teeth into position or correct the bite using braces, which are appliances that are bonded to the teeth and include using brackets, wires, rubber bands or other ways, to move the teeth into place. An orthodontist may also use removable appliances to reposition the teeth. In more serious cases, a patient may need jaw surgery to align the bite.
What happens during the orthodontic screening?
“The orthodontist will evaluate if there are problems with the bite, overcrowding, negative oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking, or a jaw discrepancy--in which the upper and lower teeth do not meet properly,” Dr. Pope said. “Early intervention may eliminate the need for braces down the road, but there are never any guarantees.”
During the evaluation, the orthodontist will screen the child for any problems and make recommendations for when treatment, if necessary, should be started. Every case is different and there is no blanket rule that applies to the treatment of malocclusion.
Here are some signs that may indicate the need for an early orthodontic evaluation, as recommended by the Chicago Dental Society and Dr. Pope:
It's impossible for an orthodontist to project the actual treatment time. In most cases, however, treatment will range from 15 to 48 months for those with severe problems. In calculating the total treatment time, the resting stages between multi-stage treatment periods (when the teeth are not actually being moved), is not included.
If a patient does not follow instructions from the dentist (i.e., to wear rubber bands or appliances), treatment may take longer. In some cases, if the interceptive stage is a success, subsequent stages may be avoided.
If the child has not been evaluated by age seven, a parent should ask his or her child's dentist about the screening, and if necessary, a referral for an orthodontist.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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