Everything You Need To Know About Orthodontics for Children


Why do we see 8-year-olds with braces? Dr. Etchison of Nelson Ridge Family Dental provides some valuable information for parents in this interview conducted by New Lenox Patch, Illinois.

There comes a point in almost every child’s life when the topic of orthodontics comes into question. However, for some children, the question arises before they even have all of their permanent teeth.

Have you ever seen an 8-year-old child with braces and wondered why they had them at such a young age? According to Dr. Paul Etchison of Nelson Ridge Family Dental, intervening early in orthodontics is sometimes crucial in preventing issues such as teeth crowding, overbites and buck teeth.

If you think your child might be in need of early orthodontics, you’re in luck. Dr. Etchison gave a special interview so you can find out everything you need to know about creating an even more beautiful smile for your child.


Interviewer: What’s the difference between early orthodontics and regular orthodontics?

Dr. Etchison: Early orthodontics, also known as early intervention orthodontics, is the catch-all term for any orthodontics performed on children before they have all of their permanent teeth. This can be from as early as 3 years old all the way to around 12. Usually this involves orthopedic appliances rather than braces.

Early orthodontics is concerned with developing the underlying bones supporting the teeth so that once the permanent teeth erupt, they have enough arch width to fit in the arch. We are also concerned about how the upper and lower jaws relate to each other and correcting any deficiencies in growth in that regard.

Interviewer: How can you tell if your child needs early orthodontics?

Dr. Etchison: A good rule of thumb is that if there isn’t any space between the baby teeth at age 4, you can be assured that there will be crowding and lack of arch width once the larger permanent teeth start to erupt at age 6. Another issue is cross bites, in which some upper teeth are behind the lower teeth. Last, a large over jet or “buck teeth” is a good indicator of deficiency in the lower jaw growth. All of the issues can be corrected early when we diagnose the problem.

Interviewer: What causes early orthodontic issues?

Dr. Etchison: Habits like thumb sucking, pacifiers and bottle feeding can start issues, but more often than not it is due to mouth breathing or improper swallowing posture due to a restricted airway. We always check children at our practice for any airway issues so that they can be alleviated by therapy to help children breathe better and be healthier.

Orthodontics, beautiful smile

Orthodontics, beautiful smile

Interviewer: At what age do you begin screening children for orthodontic problems?

Dr. Etchison: At Nelson Ridge Family Dental, we begin to screen the children the first time we see them. We continue to monitor their growth to see when the best time would be to intervene if any intervention is necessary.

Interviewer: What are the benefits of early orthodontics?

Dr. Etchison: The benefits are that we correct the problem as early as possible, so that normal facial growth can resume. The issues that children face orthodontically often restrict normal jaw development. The best part of intervening early is that the bones are still growing and are malleable, as opposed to waiting until the child is 12, when 80 to 90 percent of facial growth is complete. This is why orthodontists will extract permanent teeth before putting on braces. If we intervene early, we avoid the need to extract permanent teeth to create the space needed to align the arch. Ultimately, this creates a more beautiful smile.

Early orthodontics also helps develop the child’s nasal airway, as it is located above the palate. It can also help the airway by bringing the lower jaw forward, opening the throat.

Interviewer: Does early orthodontics mean less treatment later?

Dr. Etchison: In most cases yes, but it rarely means that a second phase of orthodontics will not be necessary once the child has all their permanent teeth. Again, early orthodontics is more about developing the jaws than aligning the teeth.

October 11, 2017

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