A LITTLE BIT ABOUT EARLY TREATMENT
Treating patients when they have a mixture of adult teeth and baby teeth (mixed dentition) can be extremely beneficial. During these developmental stages, the skeletal structures can be influenced in relationship and size and adult teeth can be guided into ideal eruption paths. While not every young patient needs or would benefit from early treatment, we typically prefer to perform an initial examination on a patient at 7 years old. At seven years of age we can often intervene if necessary whereas older patients may miss out on beneficial growth spurts and may be limited to more invasive treatment options. We would be happy to explain more in person and arrange for an exam if necessary!
While not every patient will benefit from "early interceptive" orthodontic treatment, many will. It will become very important to maintain the results of this treatment as skeletal and dental development will continue following completion of treatment. While this treatment can significantly reduce the amount of further orthodontic treatment needed, it may not completely eliminate future treatment needs.
CHANGING SKELETAL STRUCTURES
Sometimes, we don't *just* want to move teeth into better positions, we also want to modify skeletal relationships or even encourage better growth. These objectives are often undertaken when a patient is younger and more opportunity exists to have an effect on the skeletal structures. Once a patient reaches the age of puberty, the time-frame (window of opportunity) to address these issues is rapidly closing because the growth potential is very limited at this age without considering more invasive treatment types. For this reason, we like to identify and address any skeletal issues at a younger age.
A common type of skeletal discrepancy is an upper jaw (Maxilla) that is too narrow. When the upper jaw is too narrow, it may not accommodate all of the erupting adult teeth (there may just not be enough room - especially considering that adult teeth can be wider than their "baby teeth" counterpart). Another potential issue is that the upper teeth may not fit appropriately with the lower teeth for optimal function (chewing, etc). There are also theories that a narrow upper jaw may not allow the lower jaw to adequately grow downward and forward thus inhibiting the potential for a young patient to achieve a good profile for a harmonious front-to-back upper to lower jaw relationship.
Another common type of skeletal discrepancy is that the lower jaw is too far behind the upper jaw (from a front-to-back perspective). While orthodontists have numerous growth and development studies that show the lower jaw grows downward and forward throughout the course of puberty, the truth is a little more complicated. The lower jaw's growth potential is affected by many things including the angle at which it grows, how much the teeth interfere with its ideal position, and even the genetic growth potential passed down from Mom and Dad. Sometimes the lower jaw can benefit from some encouragement to achieve its maximal length and optimal position. We have a number of appliances that can help with this task. Please consider reading "Encouraging the Lower Jaw to grow" for more information on this topic.