When you think of a kid with braces, you probably picture a preteen or teenager, not an elementary school age kiddo who has yet to lose all their baby teeth. However, it is more and more common to see children as young as 7 or 8 with braces. Why, you may ask? Well, in some cases, the teen years might not actually be the most ideal time for the majority of orthodontic treatment. Read on for more information about the importance of baby teeth and the top 5 reasons why braces on baby teeth might make a whole lot of sense.
Primary teeth, most often called baby teeth, play a vital role in overall oral health. In other words, they aren’t just there to give your kiddo a cute smile. They serve three main functions:
- Baby teeth aid in the proper chewing of food which is important for fostering good nutrition, as well as appropriate growth and development.
- Baby teeth promote proper speech development.
- Baby teeth are space holders. They reserve a space for your child’s permanent teeth.
Given the importance of these tiny choppers, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an orthodontic exam no later than age 7, earlier if there are any orthodontic issues that appear before that time. When an orthodontist is able to look at a child’s mouth and see how the mix of baby teeth and permanent teeth are shaping up, they get a much clearer picture of any potential problems. The orthodontist can also monitor jaw growth and development, as well as the eruption pattern of permanent teeth. Although not every kid will need orthodontic treatment while they’re still in elementary school, some may really benefit from early intervention for the following reasons:
1. If your child’s mouth is really crowded, the orthodontist may use braces on baby teeth to help realign the placeholder baby teeth and create more room for permanent teeth to properly come in.
2. When children are younger and their jaws are still growing, braces on baby teeth can really help to guide the jaw’s development and avoid more complicated orthodontic treatments in the future.
3. Braces on baby teeth can even address certain bite issues, correcting misaligned teeth and creating a proper bite.
4. Phase 1 treatment, as it is often called when braces are put on baby teeth, can reduce the overall time and complexity of orthodontic treatment. Phase 1 is followed by a second phase of treatment after all permanent teeth have erupted (typically in the early teens). If your child’s orthodontist has the ability to help guide jaw growth and ensure the jaws are properly aligned in Phase 1, Phase 2 will often require less movement of the teeth which can result in a shorter, more efficient treatment time.
5. Beginning orthodontic treatment before all of your kiddo’s baby teeth have all fallen out can also reduce the risk of relapse (unwanted tooth movement) and create a stable, healthy smile.