WHY 7 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER IN CHILDREN'S ORTHODONTICS

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You don’t have to wait until the teen years for teeth straightening – research shows that treatment as early as age 7 can even prevent the need for 'train track' style braces in future. Paediatric Dentist Roksolana Mykhalus explains.

Mention the words ‘train tracks’ in a roomful of adults and you’re likely to generate a chorus of groans, as long-buried memories of teenage ‘metal mouths’ resurface. Many parents consider the orthodontic treatment they went through as a rite of passage – a necessary endurance test for the greater good. 

But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way for the next generation!

Orthodontic treatment isn’t just about braces for teenagers – it can play an important role during a child’s early years too, while jaws are soft and growing and before the permanent teeth have all arrived. So if you want to make sure, book in with our orthodontist before your child turns 7 – we’ll be able to spot the early signs that teeth straightening might be needed.

Here’s why:

Treating during the window of opportunity

The early years – up to the age of 7 – are arguably the best time for orthodontics, because treatments carried out on those soft, still-growing jaws are gentle and non-invasive. By the time a child turns 8, their upper jaw bones will begin to fuse, a process that completes by the age of around 14, by which time orthodontic treatment might require tooth extractions or jaw surgery. Early treatment (often called Phase 1) therefore mitigates against invasive future procedures.

Creating more room in the mouth

Early, gentle orthodontic treatment allows the orthodontist to create and preserve space where required, so that by the time the permanent teeth erupt, they’re doing it in the right place. That means much less chance of a child needing to have their permanent teeth extracted in the future.

Preventing trauma

Protruding front teeth make children vulnerable to dental trauma, and research has shown that early orthodontic treatment can significantly reduce this risk.

Correcting bad habits

Early orthodontic intervention could be as simple as getting a paediatric dentist or therapist to help a child give up thumb-sucking or tongue-thrusting – self-soothing habits which, left untreated, can lead to jaw surgery in later life.

Boosting confidence the easy way

Because children are more compliant at an earlier age, treatment is highly likely to be successful – plus they are less likely to worry about their appearance compared to when they are teenagers. The earlier you can step in with paediatric orthodontics, the less likely the experience will affect their self-esteem.

Of course, not all children require orthodontics – here are the tell-tale signs to look out for:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all permanent teeth around age 13)

  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting

  • Mouth breathing

  • Thumb/finger sucking after age 5

  • Speech problems

  • Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all

  • Grinding or clenching of teeth

  • Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes his or her mouth (crossbite)

  • Crowded front teeth around age 7 or 8

If you’ve noticed any of the above, the best thing you can do is take your child to a paediatric orthodontist, whose additional training is key to helping children feel confident about their treatment. Early treatment could even mean they won’t have to have train tracks in their teens – and won’t they thank you for that!

Roksolana Mykhalus is the founder of Happy Kids Dental, an exclusively paediatric dental practice in central London.