Interceptive and Functional Orthodontics
Orthodontics for children 3 years or older
Since 2002, the Haute Autorité de santé has recommended that children receive dental consultations from a practitioner before reaching 6 years of age.
However, only 9% of orthodontic treatments are begun before the age of 9.
If your child shows a disposition towards thumb sucking (or their pacifier), mouth breathing, placing their tongue between their teeth while swallowing, restless sleep, waking up sweating during the night, fatigue during the day, or difficulties at school- they could be suffering from conditions that can cause teeth misalignment and poor facial development.
Therefore, it's important to address these oral-facial conditions at the earliest age possible.
Does my child suffer from oral-facial conditions?
Together, we can catch tooth and jaw developmental issues in time!
Children frequently exhibit the following oral-facial conditions:
Does your child put or push their tongue in between their teeth while swallowing?
Does your child have a strong disposition towards mouth breathing?
Is your child older than 12 months and still continues to suck their thumb/pacifier?
Outside of children’s behavioral tendencies, environmental factors such as air pollution, diet, and in particular soft foods also contribute to conditions that hinder healthy facial development.
This not only carries consequences for their oral health and jaws, but can also affect the quality of their sleep and their overall general health.
Restless Sleep and Fatigue
Does your child have trouble sleeping and suffers from fatigue during the day?
Difficulties with Pronunciation
Does your child have difficulties pronouncing certain words or sounds?
Difficulties Chewing or Biting
Does your child have trouble chewing or biting into hard foods?
These functional issues can interfere with children’s teeth alignment and facial development.
Teeth (frequently canines and incisors) that develop overlaps
Gapping Between Teeth
Upper incisors and canines that are significantly misaligned with the lower teeth
A protrusion of the upper mandible that pushes the upper teeth forward
Lower incisors and canines that cover the upper teeth
A protrusion of the lower mandible that causes the lower teeth to cover the upper teeth
Upper incisors that completely cover the lower teeth
What treatment options are available?
We prescribe customized removeable orthodontic appliances along with specific therapeutic exercises.
Our approach then employs a combination of interceptive orthodontics and functional dentistry.
Or, more generally, preventative orthodontics, which is of the unique benefit to children where malocclusion can be treated by influencing teeth and jawbone development. Early diagnosis and treatment are then imperative while treatments can take advantage of children’s natural growth potential, rather than letting this potential extinguish and being forced to resort to more serious and complicated treatments after tooth and jaw development has stopped.
In reality, the vast majority of children end up wearing some form of orthodontic to correct teeth alignment or jaw development. And luckily today we can avoid the long and expensive treatments that are all too common during adolescence by taking advantage of the many orthodontics that are now designed to treat these issues beginning at 3 years of age. It’s too often the case that a child arrives at the orthodontist with problems that would have been much more simply corrected at a younger age, and without necessitating long treatments or having to extract permanent teeth!
Catching orthodontic conditions and properly timed treatment is therefore of the utmost importance. If your child shows a disposition towards- sucking their thumb/pacifier/comforter/fingers, biting their nails, sucking their tongue, mouth breathing, restless sleep, or putting their tongue in between their teeth when swallowing -they could be suffering from conditions that can lead to improper tooth alignment and facial development. Even more importantly, if these conditions aren’t corrected early, later orthodontic treatments may prove ineffective!
If the pacifier has fulfilled its base function of reducing biting during feeding time, it's imperative to withdraw pacifiers immediately after reaching 1 year of age. Even if it often seems magical in its abilities to stop cyring and appease babies... once that first candle is blown out, the pacifiers should be done away with ASAP.
Just as with thumb sucking, pacifier dependency is often listed as public enemy #1 against well-aligned teeth and balanced growth.
What Is Pediatric Orthodontics?
Pediatric orthodontics is a branch of orthodontics that focuses on the early diagnosis and treatment children’s oral-facial conditions. It takes advantage of the natural growth potential of the teeth and facial bones, rather than waiting for this potential to be extinguished after development has stopped.
The scope of pediatric orthodontics isn’t limited to the teeth, and also includes surrounding bones and soft tissues, as well as behavioral functions such as chewing, breathing and swallowing.
At its core, pediatric orthodontics is then founded on an interceptive orthodontics and functional dentistry.
Functional dentistry is a branch of orthodontics that focuses on treating children’s behaviors and habits that are the root cause of certain orthodontic conditions.
Functional orthodontics are designed to restore balance to oral health as well as correct respiratory and swallowing issues.
Treating oral-facial development conditions as soon as they are detected allows treatments to take advantage of the child's natural growth potential and avoids not only a worsening of the condition itself, but also the secondary facial, bone, functional, metabolic, and psychological-emotional issues that accompany these conditions.
Each child is different and grows and develops at their own pace. However, a first visit to the pediatric dentist is recommended between ages 2-3 to check on healthy tooth and bone development.
At this age, the doctor is able to detect developing oral-facial issues and recommend treatments to the parents. Interceptive orthodontics can then be worn between ages 3-11 where it's possible for treatment to take advantage of children's natural growth potential before they reach oral maturity. During this time, baby teeth and permanent teeth are both present within the mouth.
Interceptive orthodontics can treat the following tooth and bone conditions:
- Mandible development (the lower jaw is too large or too small)
- Widening the bones of the maxilla (upper jaw)
- Insufficient spacings for incoming permanent teeth
- Conditions arising from thumb sucking cause jaw deformation
Each of these factors also further interferes with development and causes dental crowding- therefore it’s imperative to treat children at the earliest age possible.
It’s easy to catch developmental issues with the teeth and jaws in time and effectuate interceptive treatments. Children frequently exhibit the following conditions:
- Difficulties chewing or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Difficulties pronouncing certain words correctly
- Headaches, fatigue, or (on the contrary) hyperactivity
- Tooth overlap
- Baps between the upper and lower teeth
- Unequal jaw growth
- Asymmetric smile
The following conditions require interceptive orthodontics:
- Significant disparity between the width of the jaws, which often results in a deviation (asymmetry) of the lower jaw.
- Upper teeth that bite into the interior surfaces of lower teeth. This can causetooth wear and a deviation of the jaw, as well as joint conditions, headaches, and difficulties chewing.
- Back teeth that don't touch (gappings). This can cause functional problems with chewing, speech and phonetics, as well as improper development of the anterior facial maxilla.
- Loss of important spacings due to the premature loss of baby teeth and tooth migration. Doctors might recommend recuperating lost space to allow permanent teeth to come through
- Misaligned teeth which can cause both functional and aesthetic problems, as well as tooth wear and gum condition (which may be the target of initial treatments).
- Thumb or pacifier dependency, which can cause tooth displacements and jaw deformation.
What Happens During Pediatric Orthodontic Treatments?
Successful treatment involves regularly wearing interceptive orthodontics as often as possible, as determined by your prescription. For example, certain orthodontics should be worn 2 hours during the day and while sleeping, while others require continuous wear.
The doctor will also prescribe therapeutic exercise as part of the treatment, therefore success also depends on the rigor with which these exercises are routinely performed.
Treatment duration varies depending on factors such as the: severity of the condition, amplitude of tooth displacements, maxillary movements targeted, stage and growth type (favorable or unfavorable), and developmental stage of the teeth.
However, the most important factor in determining the duration of treatment is often a scrupulous adherence to treatment instructions prescribed by the dentist. This at least provides a good measure of what the minimal duration of treatment should be. In particular, the wearing the orthodontic as indicated and regular dental visits are paramount.
If the doctor's recommendations are followed to the letter and the orthodontic is worn correctly for the time indicated, it's likely that treatment will last 6-18 months (maximum) for the majority of children.
By taking early measures to resolve your child’s tooth development problems, you address much more than aesthetic issues. Interceptive orthodontics is both a means of addressing current health issues as well as avoiding more serious problems as an adult.
By treating developmental issues early, when treatments can take advantage of the natural growth potential of the teeth and bones, it becomes much easier to obtain good results and avoid more invasive, time consuming, and costly procedures in the future.
And, should future orthodontic procedures inevitably be required, they will be easier, faster, and less expensive to perform after having undergone interceptive orthodontic treatment.
It’s sometimes difficult to convince young children of the importance of wearing orthodontics. While most children get accustomed to them very quickly, orthodontics can sometimes be bothersome. It’s therefore necessary to be very:
- patient while explaining why this treatment is so important
- rigorous in performing the prescribed therapeutic exercises accompanying the treatment
Once teeth and bone development has stopped and treatments can no longer take advantage of a child’s natural growth potential, we’re forced to resort to much longer, more complicated and involved procedures where simply wearing an orthodontic can no longer have significant impact.
For example, adults often require permanent tooth extractions or maxillofacial surgery to treat these same conditions and, in the end, they will have to wear orthodontics (braces, for example) for several years following these treatments.
Treatment will therefore be longer, more expensive, and more problematic as an adult- a time when it’s never easy to find the time, money, or courage to undertake it.