The tr-ooth about early orthodontic intervention!

A question we get asked frequently is when is the right time to see an orthodontist? 

It’s completely natural for parents to have concerns when it comes to their child needing specialist treatment – even before they’ve lost all their baby teeth!

While your dentist addresses a broad range of oral health issues, an orthodontist is specially skilled in tooth and jaw alignment – they’re the experts you’ll go and see if your child needs braces. Of course it’s always best to speak to your regular dentist first to see if your little one needs to see an orthodontist or if your dentist can perform the orthodontic treatment themselves.

Traditionally treatment for straightening teeth is started once a child loses all their baby teeth, usually after the age of 12 or so. A more contemporary and evidence based approach is to start treatment earlier. This typically involves expanding the upper jaw in order to create room for the teeth and to allow the lower jaw to develop relative to the size of the upper jaw. In many cases your child’s dentist will be able to pick up the need for intervention much earlier than it may be needed, sometimes as early as two or three years old.

Crowded front teeth in a young child can often be a sign of a crowded dentition (how the teeth are arranged) once the permanent or adult teeth come through. In other cases the relationship between the teeth in the upper and lower jaw can provide clues about what the future oral development may look like. In children that have pacifiers (dummies) or thumb-sucking habits you may also find their front teeth don’t touch, which too can translate into the adult dentition.

There now appears to be evidence suggesting that crowded teeth in young children may have a link to underlying airway issues and sleep disordered breathing in children, which may manifest in behaviours such as mouth breathing and night-time teeth grinding.

Of course the best thing you can do is discuss any of these concerns with your child’s dentist.



The type of treatment needed for your child will absolutely depend on their individual condition, their age and most importantly, their cooperative ability.

In many cases, your child’s dentist or orthodontist may recommend using an expansion plate in the upper jaw to help create room for teeth to erupt. This may involve fixed or removal “plates”, or even a short course of braces.



Starting treatment early can maximise the growth potential of the jaw, widen the airway and simplify any further treatment that may be required once adult teeth have erupted and reduce the need for extractions.

Does that mean every child will benefit from early intervention? The answer to this is not a simple yes or no and depends on each individual patient. 

Despite the benefits, intervening too soon can increase the overall duration of treatment and involve a second phase of orthodontic treatment at a later stage. This can have an effect on the overall compliance of your child. 

So the next time you bring your child to see us, ensure you have a conversation about crowding and the alignment of their teeth. 


Get in touch today by calling the clinic or booking an appointment here.


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