Children should have their first orthodontic assessment by 7 to 8 years of age, as recommended by the Australian Society of Orthodontics and the American Association of Orthodontists. Some children will benefit from a short course of treatment to prevent a bad bite from developing, to stop a bad bite from worsening or to fix a part of their bite which is causing a problem, at an early age before the whole bite has developed.
This “early” treatment that is performed before the bite is fully developed is called Interceptive Treatment. It is carried out to either correct some aspect of a bad bite that may cause early problems or to prevent a deteriorating bad bite from worsening.
Some examples of this early treatment are:
- Holding the space left by the early loss of a primary tooth.
- Moving a front tooth out of crossbite.
- Correcting a crossbite of the back teeth causing the lower jaw to slide to one side.
- Closing an “overbite” to reduce the chance of injury to the upper front teeth.
- Improving the appearance of the top front teeth for children that can’t delay treatment until most of the primary teeth have fallen out.
- Helping to overcome thumbsucking, and other habits that affect the teeth.
If this early treatment is needed, it usually takes from 6 to 12 months. The appliances used to deliver this interceptive treatment may be removable plates, fixed plates or braces on a few teeth only.
Once this “early” treatment has been completed, it is best for the orthodontist to keep monitoring the rest of the tooth development until all the primary (baby) teeth have fallen out. It is seldom that interceptive treatment will correct the whole bite problem.
In most cases once all, or nearly all, of the primary teeth have fallen out, usually approaching 11 to 12 years of age, the whole bite problem can be fully assessed by the orthodontist and if needed, a full treatment solution can be worked out, discussed and then started.