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Straight Talk about Early Orthodontic Treatment
5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM

Orthodontic Treatment

The summer months are often a time when parents consider getting braces for their children. Most people associate braces with the teenage years but children today are more likely to get braces at an earlier age, according to orthodontist Craig Crawford, DDS, with Crawford Orthodontics. "While orthodontics can improve a smile at any age, there is an optimal time period to begin treatment, and in many cases this time period is when a child is in their pre-teens.”

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an orthodontic evaluation no later than age seven.  Dr. Crawford says by this age, most children have a good mix of baby and adult teeth, which enables us to make a good assessment.  "By no means are we saying that most children need braces at this early age.  Braces are not usually recommended until most of a child’s adult teeth have erupted. But this initial exam will allow us to spot any potential problems that may exist, even if your child’s teeth appear straight. Many orthodontic problems are easier and less complicated to correct earlier, rather than later.”

For example, orthodontists can direct extractions of baby teeth which may allow adult teeth to come in straighter, possibly preventing the need for braces altogether. As a child gets older, regular examinations can monitor growth and development as needed, with any needed treatment recommended at the appropriate time.” 

Dr. Crawford explains that there are some situations in which young children do require orthodontic treatment. This is referred to as "interceptive orthodontics,” and typically involves interventions that begin before a child starts first grade. "At this age, tooth development and jaw growth have not been completed, so certain conditions are easier to address.” He says that interceptive treatment can be used to create room for crowded, erupting teeth, create facial symmetry by influencing jaw growth, reduce the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth, preserve space for un-erupted permanent teeth and reduce treatment time with braces, among other benefits. 

Dr. Crawford says in his office, he uses a 3-D i-CAT imaging system which is extremely helpful with interceptive orthodontics. "This advanced imaging technology and modeling system provide us with very accurate and complete images for diagnosis and treatment planning, without the more cumbersome – and messy – dental impressions. The system allows us to not only see current alignment and teeth, but also to more precisely predict limits of tooth movement and bony support and perform 3-D treatment simulations. We’re eliminating a lot of the guess work in treatment planning,” adds Dr. Crawford.  

When braces are needed in younger children, Dr. Crawford says manufacturers have worked to make the process more fun, with brightly colored alastics, the tiny rubber bands that hold the wires to the braces.  "Kids can choose alastics to match their favorite colors, school uniforms, team colors, a holiday color scheme, etc,” says Dr. Crawford.  "This helps keep the kids excited about the treatment.” 

For some teens, invisible aligners may be an option. These are made of a medical grade clear plastic, which are custom-made for each patient and move teeth incrementally, in a process similar to conventional braces. Dr. Crawford says the aligners are not only more aesthetically appealing to teens, but is also often a better fit for their busy lifestyles, which are typically filled with sports, music and other activities. 

The good news is with earlier treatment, older teens can not only have a great smile, but also one less thing to worry about in their high school years. 

For more information about braces at any age, call Crawford Orthodontics at (337) 478-7590 or visit www.drcrawfordorthodontics.com.

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Categories: Parenting

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