From infancy to adolescence, your child’s smile is changing and developing just as much as they are. Along with changes to their dentition as they move from primary (baby) to adult teeth, the bones and muscles of your child’s mouth and jaws are also growing and developing into their eventual adult shapes. During this time of rapid change, your child’s orofacial structures are more malleable than they will be in their adult years, making it possible to positively direct their smile’s development early.
To best support your child’s healthy orofacial development and reduce the need for more extensive orthodontic intervention later, the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that every child have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7, which is usually around the time that your child’s two front bottom adult teeth have come in. An active member of Space Maintainers and Gnathos and Gnathos South Orthodontic Consulting since 2008, Dr. Shea has taken numerous continuing education courses on orthodontics and provides age-appropriate early intervention orthodontic care right in her office.
Though they’ll eventually fall out, your child’s baby teeth play an essential role in guiding the alignment of your child’s permanent adult teeth. If one or more baby teeth are missing congenitally (from birth) or lost due to tooth damage or decay, your child’s adult teeth may shift into a space intended for another permanent tooth, which can cause or exacerbate crowded, crooked, or misaligned adult teeth. With an early intervention orthodontic appliance, called a space maintainer, Dr. Shea can help your child prevent or reduce orthodontic issues in the future.
Space maintainers are simple dental appliances that maintain the space left by a missing or lost baby tooth, until your child’s permanent teeth are ready to erupt. Made of metal, plastic, or a combination, space maintainers are custom-made to comfortably fit your child’s smile and can be removable or fixed in place. Fixed space maintainers are cemented onto adjacent teeth, which may be especially helpful for young children who may remove, lose, or play with their dental appliance. Removable maintainers resemble an orthodontic retainer, and may also have a prosthetic tooth to fill the gap left by a missing primary tooth. In both cases, Dr. Shea will monitor the development of your child’s dentition and remove the space maintainer when their permanent teeth are ready to erupt.
Along with monitoring both adult and baby teeth, Dr. Shea evaluates your child’s facial growth and development, especially that of their upper jaw (called the maxilla). If your child’s maxilla is not fully accommodating your child’s tongue or incoming permanent teeth, a palate expander can help gently and gradually widen the cartilage of the maxilla for optimal growth, development, and alignment of adult teeth.
Customized to comfortably fit inside your child’s mouth, a palate expander is a fixed or removable dental appliance that’s worn over several top teeth in the back of the mouth for three to six months. A palate expander crosses the upper palate and has two halves, with a screw in the middle that is gradually tightened with a special key to generate gentle tension. Once your child’s palate has expanded, they’ll continue to wear their appliance for a few months to support their bone structure in solidifying its new position.
Traditional braces are a highly personalized orthodontic treatment that addresses malocclusion, which means “bad bite.” Along with describing upper and lower jaws that don’t properly meet, malocclusion also describes crooked, crowded, overlapped, misaligned, or protruded teeth.
If your child or teen is experiencing malocclusion, Dr. Shea will carefully design a treatment plan to correct misalignments in the teeth and jaws and help your child experience the numerous benefits a straighter smile can bring. A straighter smile can provide your child with many oral and overall health benefits throughout their lifetime. Along with promoting a properly functioning and healthy jaw and even wear on teeth, straighter teeth are easier to keep clean and can support your child’s long-term sense of confidence and self-esteem.
Traditional braces treatment in children often begins between the ages of 11 and 13, once all the adult teeth have grown in, though can also start later depending on your child’s unique needs. Dr. Shea will craft a custom treatment plan with a high level of detail, strategy, and care. Throughout the course of your child’s orthodontic treatment, Dr. Shea will adjust, bend, or tighten your child’s orthodontic appliances to apply strategic pressure to gradually bring your child’s teeth into their more ideal alignment. Orthodontic treatment time varies from patient to patient, though is usually complete within 18 to 36 months.
A retainer is a simple orthodontic appliance that’s used to retain the results of orthodontic treatment upon completion and prevent teeth from shifting out of their new positions. Customized to meet your child’s unique mouth and teeth, retainers are made from metal, plastic, or a combination of the two and may be bonded to the backs of your child’s teeth or removable.
Following your child’s orthodontic treatment, Dr. Shea will create one or more customized retainers to protect your child’s new smile and provide detailed instructions on how to care for each. Dr. Shea can also replace or rebond retainers from previous orthodontic treatment if lost or damaged.
Planning your first visit?
Getting to know Dr. Shea and her team will be a fun and enjoyable experience for you, your child, and us. We will review your child’s history and make sure you are comfortable with our procedures and staff.