Orthodontic Treatment for Children

In a healthy situation, the teeth of a pre-school aged child should be spaced, to allow room for the wider adult teeth to erupt.

Orthodontic treatment doesn’t just give you a nice smile; it also contributes to better oral health and confidence. Besides aligning your teeth, orthodontics in children can help them grow to their best genetic potential, including developing the airway, improving facial symmetry and the health of your jaw joints.  This all leads to better sleep, growth and general health.

If left unattended, minor orthodontic problems grow with the individual and become harder to treat at a later stage, so ideally treatment should begin as soon as the problem is identified. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that you have your child’s teeth checked before the age of seven.


When to Treat Children

Orthodontic treatment is of course only effective when a child is willing and able to tolerate dental visits and orthodontic appliances. Though we prefer to treat children as soon as orthodontic problems are identified, sometimes this is not feasible. In this circumstance, we monitor the child with regular visits until they are comfortable and happy to proceed.

What to look out for

When the child bites together, all upper and lower teeth should meet and the upper teeth should all sit in front of/outside the lower teeth. When the child swallows, all upper and lower teeth should meet. If a child’s teeth deviate from any of these norms, early orthodontic treatment may be required.

Left: ‘Crossbite’ – lower teeth biting in front of upper teeth. Orthodontics is required.
Right: No spaces between baby teeth – therefore inadequate space for permanent teeth. Orthodontics is required.

What is early orthodontic treatment?

Early orthodontic treatment or interceptive orthodontics takes place when children still have some or all of their primary teeth. Orthodontics control the movement of teeth and addressing alignment issues at this stage helps to correct the improper growth of permanent teeth.

Interceptive orthodontics also allows us to work on developing the upper and lower jaws to their greatest genetic potential, when the patient is still young and growing. Children complete 90% of their facial growth by 12 years of age therefore working with growth can give the best health, functional and cosmetic results. This is the goal of early orthodontic treatment (also known as first phase treatment).

What are the benefits of early treatment?

Orthodontic treatment is more straightforward when the problem is still in the early stages. Additionally, younger children are more cooperative and less self-conscious than pre-teens or young adults, which makes treatment easier. Tackling an orthodontic problem early on can mitigate the extent of or need for orthodontic treatment later in life. It usually also reduces the need for extraction of healthy permanent teeth due to crowding or lack of space.

Braces for kids

Braces correct alignment by applying a steady pressure on the teeth. This pressure moves teeth over time, straightening out a crooked tooth or overlapping teeth. Most braces for children are designed as brackets that are fixed onto the teeth. These are connected by a wire and rubber bands. As the treatment progresses, the wire is tightened gradually. Metal is a commonly used material in braces for kids (kidshealth.org), but ceramic is also popular. White ceramic is not as noticeable as metal. Lingual braces are placed behind the teeth to hide them from view.


Braces for teenagers

Discreet options such as Invisalign are more popular among teenagers than traditional metal braces. They are invisible and are similar in design to retainers. These are made based on moulds taken of the patient’s teeth and are more suited to simple cases. The plastic retainer will have to be changed every one to two weeks based on impressions made of your teen’s teeth.

Get in touch with us to set up a consult and discuss the best options for your child.

Types of braces for children


Orthodontic appliance

A common misconception is that crooked teeth in children can be straightened only after all the permanent teeth have come in. But early treatment with removable or fixed orthodontic appliances or a growth guidance appliance is effective in helping the upper and lower jaw grow correctly and this reduces the extent (and expense) of orthodontic treatment when children are older. The facial development in children is 60% complete by the age of 6 and 90% by the age of 12. Intervening at an earlier age allows us to work with the greatest growth of your child simplifying the treatment.


Non-extraction orthodontics

Traditional orthodontic treatment often involves extraction of one or more teeth to make more room in the mouth. But non-extraction orthodontic treatment is the new standard. With this approach, very few cases require extractions. At Dental Artistry, we prefer the non-extraction approach. Rather than removing teeth to make space, our treatment plan develop the jaws to create full, wide smiles. There are also other added benefits of maintaining the tongue space, not impeding on the airways and keeping the jaw relationships balanced. Non-extraction orthodontics is also known as full face orthodontics.


Functional orthodontics

Functional orthodontics addresses the discrepancy between the upper and lower jaw positions Combined with braces they are used to straighten the teeth and correct the positioning of both the upper and lower jaws. This is done to create a harmonious profile and prevent a weak chin, as well as misaligned jaws that subsequently lead to an overbite or underbite, conditions that have been known to lead to more difficult issues, including migraines, sleep apnoea and upper airway obstructions.


Growth guidance orthodontics

Facial development happens early and is 60% complete by age six.  Growth guidance orthodontics aims to identify and correct any developmental problems early on, in order to put children on the path to good facial development. With the help of growth appliances (such as an anterior growth guidance appliance) and aids, orthodontists can alter abnormal growth patterns to ensure a functional bite, optimal oxygenation with an adequate airway and, of course, a full, beautiful smile. Children around the age of seven are ideal candidates for growth guidance orthodontics as they have begun getting their permanent teeth by this age.


See the Results

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Seventeen year old Matilda’s teeth were crowded and her lower jaw was too far back. She hated her ‘vampire teeth’. We straightened Matilda’s teeth and brought her jaw forward with braces to create a beautiful smile. No teeth were extracted.

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Eleven year old Fergus’s teeth were crowded. Fergus’s three brothers had all had four teeth extracted during their orthodontic treatment elsewhere, and his mum wanted to avoid that now. We expanded Fergus’s jaws for six months with removable plates and then placed braces. Fergus now has a broader, more attractive jawline than he would have if teeth had been removed.

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Nine year old Molly’s teeth were crooked and she had a very large overbite. Overbites can be removed very successfully with removable plates in young patients such as Molly. Molly wore a removable plate to expand her upper jaw, and then a different plate to bring her lower jaw forward and remove her overbite. Once her permanent teeth all come through we will place braces to straighten them. No teeth will be extracted.

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Fifteen year old Sarah’s teeth were extremely crowded. Very rarely we do need to remove teeth to achieve our treatment goals. Here we removed two lower teeth and placed braces for fourteen months to create Sarah’s dream smile.