Early intervention orthodontics

That cute buck-tooth grin on your child could be a sign they require early intervention orthodontics.

Byline: Dr Peter Ikonomou

Early intervention orthodontics is usually considered when a child is about eight years old. It is good for children who have discrepancies in their bone growth. Unfortunately many parents aren’t aware if their child needs to see an orthodontist. They may think their kids look cute with funny teeth, but it could be the bones aren’t in the right ratio for top to bottom jaw.

Many parents I see have children whose top teeth are sticking out too far. They call them bucky teeth, but a lot of the time it’s not actually the top teeth that are sticking out, it’s in fact their lower jaw that’s too far back. If this is happening because of a growth issue, the child may need an expander. It is placed in the upper jaw, which expands the jaw size while the child growing and it allows the permanent teeth to fit in place.

Most of the time this expansion can be done in combination with braces between the ages of 10 and 12. However, if the child has got a problem with undersized jaws, they might require early intervention with orthodontics.

Parents are surprised to learn facial growth finishes before the rest of your body finishes growing. Those who believe they’ll wait until their child finishes growing in height before they see the orthodontist, often don’t realise the child’s face finishes between the ages of 12 and 14. Any promotion of bone growth or making your mouth larger is best done when the puberty growth starts, not after it’s finished. This tends to save extracting teeth in most cases, however sometimes you may still require extraction of teeth.

If you have doubts or concerns about orthodontics, we will assess the child to determine whether it’s an issue that can wait until they’re 10 or 12, or whether it’s an issue that needs immediate attention. If it needs immediate attention we usually will take some rubber moulds—that’s impressions of their mouth—and then we generally create a removable plate that makes room for new teeth to grow through.

One of the most common conditions we see is bucky teeth, where the child appears to have two teeth hanging out over their lip. Many children who appear to have bucky upper teeth generally just have a very narrow upper jaw due to tonsils or adenoids.

In this case it’s best addressed early.

It’s important to note that we do work with other specialists if your child requires other forms of treatment, such as ENT, or even orthodontic surgery.

Don’t panic if your child has crooked or crowded teeth, but has normal jaw sizes or normal facial structures. If that’s the case, much of this treatment can be done later on in life.

If you do have concerns, bring your child in to see a dentist about early intervention orthodontics. The examination can pick up these problems, so I believe the sooner the better.