Early Orthodontic and Therapy Intervention in Children

When your child comes in for a dental cleaning the doctor will evaluate your child’s oral health. Part of the examination will be a visual inspection of their bite and the entire oral cavity. Occasionally, you will have a young child, under seven years of age who will be referred for an orthodontic evaluation. Often parents are uncomfortable with this, feeling it is too early to consider any type of orthodontic intervention. It is important to realize however that 60-70% of facial growth is complete by age 7. There are also children who suffer from orofacial myofunctional disorders that need to be addressed as improper development of the oral cavity can create long tern consequences for children. In fact one orofacial myofunctional disorder, Ankyloglossia or tongue tie, is a condition where the tongue of an infant has a low forward position due to a short lingual frenum. This can adversely affect the development of the palate and the tongue’s ability to function properly. In this instance a pediatrician or lactation specialist would identify this condition, and it would require immediate treatment. Tongue thrust is another of these disorders that can be diagnosed early, and requires therapy to change orofacial functions such as chewing or swallowing. Habits such as pacifier or thumb sucking, nail biting, and other open mouth habits are also treated with therapy and sometimes appliances. Open mouth breathing during sleep is a real concern forĀ  proper oral development. If untreated this open mouth sleeping can contribute to posture and soft tissue changes that can manifest itself through every life stage. The lack of quality sleep can contribute to behavior disorders, fatigue, and speech problems in children. If this condition continues into adulthood it can contribute to heart disease, depression, obesity, and diabetes. If your child receives a recommendation for an early evaluation it is important to realize that there could be very legitimate health concerns relating to early oral development.