At Smileworx, we recommend taking your child to see an orthodontist between the ages of 7 and 10. You don’t need a referral from your doctor to make an appointment. You don’t even need to be concerned about your child’s teeth. We recommend an early visit to an orthodontist, because orthodontists are qualified to spot potential issues before they develop into more complicated problems.
Tackling problems early
As many as 20 percent of the children we see at Smileworx have an undiagnosed tongue thrust (a retained infant swallow). Parents may find that children breathe noisily, are messy eaters or develop speech problems. This can lead to speech therapy which ultimately doesn’t work because of the underlying untreated issue.
Every baby is born with the ability to breastfeed as a reflex action. The tongue comes forward to protect the airway and prevent the baby from drowning. Unfortunately in some children this reflex persists and becomes an entrenched habit. In turn, the tongue doesn’t encourage the roof of the mouth to develop to the maximum width; eventually teeth become crowded because there’s not enough room for them to grow. It may also become impossible for the child to get the tongue back to the correct position because the jaw is now too narrow.
At Smileworx, we treat a tongue thrust with a device that widens the jaw and prevents the tongue from coming forward. This has a dramatic effect and can fix the problem without the need for extractions or surgery to widen the jaw later.
Why early intervention works
Before a child reaches their late teens, their jaw bones are still soft. While the bones are still pliable, corrective procedures (such as expanders) work faster and more effectively. Increasing the size of the jaw at this stage can mean that braces are not necessary later on. So, early intervention can make any treatment (now or in the future) more cost-effective and less complicated.
Opting for a ‘wait and see’ approach to treatment may limit your options later on to those that involve extracting teeth. Wherever possible, we want to keep healthy teeth in place. This isn’t just because we need our teeth as we grow older (although that’s a good reason!), it’s also about facial balance.
Facial balance is a familiar concept in cosmetic medicine – and it’s something that orthodontists need to understand too. Facial balance is about ensuring that patients don’t just get straighter teeth, but a pleasing overall appearance.
In a nutshell, facial balance is about achieving harmony between the features in the face. Removing teeth can reduce support for the lip, and this in turn can make the patient’s nose appear larger. If the patient has a small nose to begin with, this might not be a problem. However, if they’re likely to have a larger nose later in life, extracting teeth could make it more prominent.
Turning problems into options
When we intervene early, our goal is to eliminate the problem for good; or if that’s not possible, provide better and simpler treatment options down the track. At Smileworx, we achieve an excellent outcome by providing appropriate, early intervention in short bursts of treatment; and always keeping the patient’s optimum facial balance in mind.