Early Orthodontic Treatment For Children

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children see an orthodontist as early as age seven. At this point the orthodontist will evaluate whether your child will likely need orthodontic treatment now or in the future.


Early orthodontic treatment (also known as interceptive treatment or phase one) typically begins around age eight or nine. The goal of early treatment is to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as an underbite or crossbite. Correction of such problems early on is critical as continued growth can make these issues more difficult to correct later, and sometimes impossible without the aid of surgical orthodontics. Early treatment can also help make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of extractions in the future. In some instances, early treatment may eliminate the need for additional treatment later on, but often a second stage of treatment is still needed once all permanent teeth are present (phase two).

How Can I Tell If My Child May Need Early Orthodontic Treatment?

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Your child continues sucking his or her thumb after age five
  • Speech impediments
  • Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
  • Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or even at all
  • Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbites)
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight

What Causes Orthodontic Problems?

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and improper bite relationships can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or habits.

How Will Early Treatment Benefit My Child?

Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13, and by the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can be more complicated. Addressing certain orthodontic problems early on is critical as continued growth can make these issues more difficult to correct in the future, and sometimes impossible without extraction of teeth and/or jaw surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for more complex orthodontic treatment as an adult. It can also prevent injury to the permanent teeth in cases where the front teeth protrude excessively. Additionally, early treatment can help improve self-esteem. For most children, the social implications of orthodontic problems are not bothersome, but if your child is suffering from bullying or teasing related to misaligned teeth, early orthodontic treatment may be worthwhile.


If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, or if you have been directed by your family dentist to visit the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule an appointment. Dr. Courtney will provide your child with an initial exam and develop a plan to help your child achieve an ideal smile whether it be through active treatment or simply monitoring growth and development until the appropriate time for treatment arrives.

Southern Smiles is the premier choice for orthodontics in Roanoke Rapids, NC. Call (252) 365-4234 to take the first step to the smile you always wanted!

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