What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for these problems is “malocclusion”, which means “bad bite”. The practice of orthodontics requires professional skill in the design, application and control of corrective appliances, such as braces, to bring teeth, lips and jaws into proper alignment and to achieve facial balance.
At what age can people have orthodontic treatment?
Children and adults can both benefit from orthodontics, because healthy teeth can be moved at almost any age. Because monitoring growth and development is crucial to managing some orthodontic problems well, the Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have an orthodontic screening no later than age 7. Some orthodontic problems may be easier to correct if treated early. Waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction of some problems more difficult.
An orthodontic evaluation at any age is advisable if a parent, family dentist or the patient’s physician has noted a problem.
Age 7: A Year to Remember
An orthodontist evaluated Jennifer’s severe protrusion when she was 7 years old (first photo). The orthodontist started treatment using techniques to reduce the protrusion and improve the way her lips met. The result was a better environment for her emerging permanent teeth.
Later, when Jennifer’s remaining permanent teeth came in, she wore braces to align her teeth and complete the treatment started earlier (second photo). In the interim she had improved function and appearance. Jennifer’s case illustrates why the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children get an orthodontic check-up no later than age 7. An early visit allows the orthodontist to inform parents whether orthodontic treatment may be required. If treatment is needed, the orthodontist can then advise the family on the appropriate time for the child to begin treatment.
An early orthodontic evaluation can ease a parent’s concerns about crooked teeth or facial development and about orthodontic treatment. Some conditions are best treated early for biological, social or practical reasons, whereas others should be deferred in the realization that patients differ in both physiological development and treatment needs. Our goal is to provide each patient with the most appropriate treatment at the most appropriate time.
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