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At Ahl and O’Connor Orthodontics, we recommend seeing children at a young age so we can help prevent serious bite issues from forming. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child receive his or her first orthodontic screening by the age of seven. By starting treatment early, an orthodontist is able to recognize potential problems and correct them before they become more severe. Interceptive orthodontic treatment helps guide permanent teeth into an ideal eruption pattern and to modify growth in a more favorable direction while the child is still growing.

In the past, orthodontic treatment did not begin until all the permanent teeth were erupted, which is approximately 12 years of age. It was also common to remove permanent teeth to achieve space in severely crowded cases. Although this is still necessary in some cases, early treatment significantly reduces the need to extract teeth.



Early orthodontic treatment varies between patients but may include removable or fixed appliances that can provide more room for crowded, erupting teeth. Additionally, treatment can preserve space for unerupted teeth, create facial symmetry through manipulating jaw growth, and can also simplify or eliminate additional treatment for the child. We offer several treatment options which provide significant benefits, especially when jaw irregularities and dental crowding is present. Early treatment is not an option for non-growing individuals because the face and jaw bones have already fully matured. Treatment decisions are limited in a patient who would have benefited from early treatment but did not receive that treatment during the ideal timeframe.

Interceptive treatment may also be necessary if a child has a finger or thumb sucking habit. In most children, thumb sucking stops on its own between the ages of two and four years. If it persists after age five, it can affect the roof of the mouth (palate), and cause significant misalignment of the teeth. Finger or thumb sucking can result in the upper front teeth flaring out and the lower teeth moving back. It can also prevent the front teeth from closing together. It may also cause a crossbite, which is when the upper jaw is too narrow and does not coordinate with the lower jaw.



Another benefit of seeing a child early is when a primary tooth falls out or is extracted prematurely. In this case, maintaining that space is important so the adjacent teeth do not move into the empty space. If this occurs, there may not be sufficient room for the impending adult tooth to erupt. Space maintenance is very important and may prevent crowding and impaction of adult teeth.

Some malocclusions do not warrant early treatment. A check-up may reveal that your child’s bite is fine. Or, we may identify a developing problem but recommend monitoring your child’s growth and development, and then, if indicated, begin treatment at the appropriate time for your child. When you visit Ahl and O’Connor Orthodontics for your complimentary consultation, we will let you know whether it is necessary to intervene and the ideal time to initiate treatment. If your child will not benefit from interceptive treatment, we will place your child on an observation schedule so we can monitor eruption and evaluate their growth and bite periodically to ensure that primary teeth are falling out and permanent teeth are erupting, all in a timely matter.

Ahl & O’Connor Orthodontics

1004 South State Street
Dover, DE 19901
(302) 678-3000

601 NW Front Street
Milford, DE 19963
(302) 422-6007

1632 Savannah Road
Lewes, DE 19958
(302) 644-4100

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