Orthodontic treatment can begin in young children as early as age 6 or 7, but is typically around age 8 or 9.  It is known as interceptive or two-phase orthodontics.  Phase 1 is pre-treatment and Phase 2 is braces.  At this age, teeth are still developing and the jaw is still growing, and that enables easier treatment of certain conditions, such as overcrowding and improper bite.  By age 7, a child’s mouth usually has sufficient growth and has enough sound structure to know how it will develop as the permanent teeth start to emerge.  Early treatment gives an orthodontist control over where the permanent teeth come in by addressing the structure of the jaw and teeth while baby teeth are still in the mouth.

These are some of the indications your 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 perhaps not at all
  • Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbite)
  • Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight

Some of the benefits of this specialized process of combining tooth straightening and physical, facial changes, an orthodontist can provide with early intervention are to:

  • Determine a better prognosis for how the permanent teeth will develop
  • Correct habits that may be the cause of development problems, such as thumb sucking or tongue pushing/thrusting
  • Correct bite problems like an open bite, cross bite or deep bite
  • Guide the growth of the jaw to accommodate emerging teeth
  • Lower the risk of damage to any protruding teeth
  • Improve your child’s appearance and self-esteem
  • Create a more pleasing and functional arrangement of teeth, lips and face
  • Alleviate future, and possibly more invasive, dental correction

The goal with two-phase orthodontic treatment is to achieve a healthy, functional, aesthetic result that will remain stable throughout the child’s life.  Early treatment is most effective for achieving lasting results.  If treatment is delayed, the result can be a need for more invasive treatment later in life, with less than optimal corrections that may not be able to completely fix the smile.

Typically, the first phase begins while your child still has most of their primary teeth. The second phase begins as your child gets older, when your child’s growth and corrective dental needs can be more accurately determined.

The goal of the first phase of early orthodontics treatment is to accomplish the following:

  • Enable correct biting and chewing
  • Correct harmful oral habits
  • Prevent additional problems from developing
  • Intercept a developing problem
  • Guide the growth of the jaw bones that support the teeth so the teeth grow in straight and the jaw grows in the correct alignment
  • Lower the risk of damage or breakage to protruding front teeth
  • Guide permanent teeth into a more favorable position
  • Establish long-term stability
  • Improve appearance

Phase Two will usually begin around age 11 or older, when permanent teeth are still emerging, in order to correct the growth of the jaw and certain bite problems, such as underbite.  One reason early treatment is important is that it also helps to make room for permanent teeth to come in properly, lessening the chance of extractions in the future.

Phase two includes fitting braces to make these corrections:

  • Move permanent teeth into their final positions
  • Correct minor bite issues
  • Continue improving teeth function and facial appearance
  • Continue to increase child’s self-esteem

A consultation from a professional orthodontist can be important even if your child doesn’t need orthodontic treatment immediately, because it will inform you how an orthodontist can help your child if future treatment is necessary.

If you are interested in early (interceptive) orthodontic care in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.