Many parents come to my office and ask me “When will my child be ready for braces?”. Fortunately for my patients, pediatric dentists are experts in growth and development of the jaws and teeth. Advanced training and education allow us to recognize poor tooth position early and minimize the time and cost of full orthodontic care in adolescence. Often, there is enough space in the mouth for all of the permanent teeth, but it is poorly distributed. By keeping the teeth from collapsing into open spaces, early orthodontic intervention can reduce crowding and may provide adequate alignment with growth.
My patients are so excited when they lose their first few teeth, but parents furl their brow at me when they see the permanent replacements coming in crooked. During kindergarten and first grades, the goals of development are to maintain aesthetics and function of the permanent teeth. By guiding the permanent teeth into their correct positions, we can reduce the risks of wearing down the new teeth, creating interference in the bite, causing recession of the gums, and reduce the time braces need to be worn in high school. This is often done with retainers or appliances that are custom made for small mouths in the early stages of growth and development when kids love to show off their smile!