Little girl brushing her teeth

The Importance of Primary Teeth & Early Orthodontic Treatment for Oral Development

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But did you know this applies to orthodontic treatment too. While braces are seen as a way to adjust your permanent teeth into their ideal position, early orthodontic treatment can prevent problems from occurring in the first place! This form of treatment, referred to as early interceptive treatment, can help guide your child’s oral development to avoid potential malocclusions and health risks. 

Why Primary Teeth Are important 

Because they’re temporary, primary teeth are often thought of by parents or children as less important than permanent teeth. This couldn’t be further from the truth! While it is true that they won’t need to last as long as permanent teeth, your primary teeth are significant for many reasons: 

They Help Establish Dental Care Routines 

Primary teeth are around long enough to develop issues like cavities, which means they need to be taken care of just the same as permanent ones. During early childhood, parents should encourage good oral health habits that will translate into lifelong dental health with their children’s permanent teeth. 

Oral health care can start even before primary teeth erupt! Using a soft cloth and water, parents can get infants used to the feeling of brushing by gently wiping their gums, which helps keeps gums clear of bacteria that cause gingivitis. 

They Aid in Speech Development 

Making sounds is natural for children but learning how to speak a language and pronounce words properly requires a lot of practice. This is because the way we make sounds is complicated; speech requires coordination between the mouth, tongue, teeth and nasal cavities! 

A healthy set of teeth makes a difference when it comes to developing clear speech and avoiding speech impediments. If primary teeth aren’t properly cared for, children can learn habits that cause issues like lisps, inability to form certain sounds and more. 

Primary Teeth Prepare Your Mouth for Permanent Teeth 

The most important aspect of primary teeth is that they hold the positions for permanent teeth. As you age, and adult teeth replace your baby teeth, they will generally come in where the baby teeth were positioned. 

If a child loses a baby tooth early, either due to injury or severe decay issues, the remaining teeth typically shift to fill the new gap left by the lost tooth. This can lead to many different development issues, like large gaps between teeth, teeth erupting at severe angles and more. 

How Early Orthodontic Treatment Helps 

Around the age of seven, it’s recommended that children have an orthodontic exam. This gives an orthodontist time to see how your child’s teeth are developing while still leaving time for early orthodontic treatment. Almost all orthodontic issues caught in early exams lead to better prognosis and easier treatment. 

Because the position of your child’s teeth will impact the development of their jaw, issues that are left untreated early may have permanent ramifications in their adult life. While treatment later in life can help mitigate or correct problems, the treatment cycles may be longer or more challenging. On the other hand, early treatment will reposition teeth to encourage natural, healthy development. This can completely more severe oral health issues years or decades later! 

Remember to consider this exam even if your child isn’t displaying any obvious signs of issues! Orthodontists are trained specialists with years of experience at spotting things that even a general dentist could miss. 

What Is Two-Phase Orthodontic Treatment? 

One of the common approaches to early orthodontic treatment is what’s known as two-phase treatment. Your orthodontist will split the treatment between two phases, with separate goals in each stage: 

The first stage’s primary goal typically to help with immediate issues and prevent problems associated with development when teeth are misaligned. A first-phase treatment may correct your child’s bite, help them chew or speak properly, and establish stable positioning for the teeth. 

Phase two, which happens after your child has had time to develop and adjust to the phase-one treatments, is about putting the “finishing touches” on their treatment. In phase two, your orthodontist may focus on minor bite issues and adjusting the permanent teeth into their final positions. 

Two-phase treatment is recommended in cases where a child’s primary teeth are likely to cause an issue with how permanent teeth with develop. By treating severe alignment issues early, it makes the second phase of the treatment easier and able to achieve better results than simply waiting for the permanent teeth to begin treatment. 

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