Oral Health for Children:
It's About A Lot More Than Teeth
Why start treatment early?
Children experience a number of growth spurts leading up to puberty. Each of those growth spurts can be used to harness the natural forces of the body to guide ideal jaw and tooth positioning. "Waiting until all the permanent teeth are in" is an archaic, deficient methodology for treating malocclusion, and more often than not, "traditional orthodontics" will straighten teeth but will not eliminate unhealthy oral habits, which will lead to either needing lifetime retention (a permanent retainer) or relapse of teeth in adulthood.
Poor oral habits such as mouth breathing, thumb sucking, and an anterior tongue thrust cause a myriad of chronic inflammatory responses as well as dental malocclusion issues. It's important to note...
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These habits & malocclusions DO NOT SELF CORRECT! And they only get more difficult to treat with age.
The more time we have for treatment during natural growth and development, the easier it is to achieve desire results results.
"You can't fix what you can't see"... this is the basis for a relatively common conversation we have with our new patient families. We hear from them, "This is the first time I've heard that my child has an issue that can or should be treated, but he/she has been seeing a dentist for years." There is nothing wrong with your existing dentist, and on some occasions, we even co-treat patients who want to stay with their current dentist but seek this treatment from us.
Typically what is happening is that your dentist is focused on the "sickcare" side of dentistry, not the "wellcare" (for more of a discussion on this, review Our Practice Philosophy). More than likely, it is a combination of your existing dentist not being trained in this comprehensive treatment as well as he or she not having the extensive diagnostic tools that are needed to identify and treat these issues.
In addition to traditional dental xrays that most people are familiar with, each of our patients undergo a CBCT scan to evaluate jaw, sinus, nasal, and airway health; handfilm x-ray to determine skeletal growth projection; digital scan for 3D dental models to iterate on treatment options; cephalometric x-ray; home sleep test; and electrodiagnosis and T-scan for TMJ disk placement review.
These tools facilitate a comprehensive baseline so that we can build a predictable therapeutic plan, one that is rooted in our functional, holistic approach to oral health.
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In many pediatric dentistry cases, elimination of whatever habit(s) may be present for a child will correspond with a reduction in many chronic, systemic inflammatory symptoms that child was previously experiencing. Speech difficulties? Resolved. Chronic runny nose or sore throat? Fixed. Teeth grinding? Gone.
We utilize a suite of various removable and fixed appliances in conjunction with behavioral modification techniques, routine office visits, and telemedicine checks to ensure our patients have success in this critical process. With the reduction in the habit, the oral environment will regain the proper balance of natural forces between tongue, lip, cheeks, jaw, and teeth, and the child will then be prepared to have improved eruption of adult teeth.
To think of it another way, on average, a person swallows approximately 2x/min when awake during the day and 1x/min while sleeping. So if your child is spending a few hours during the day and at night thumbsucking, for example, that is a few hundred malpositioned swallows occuring every single day that is reinforcing improper tongue and tooth placement. Thus eliminating that habit sooner rather than later will minimize the amount of "damage" done by the imbalanced forces in the mouth.
Arch Expansion, TMJ Positioning, Soft Tissue Correction
Pending patient needs as he or she progresses through treatment, we include all necessary auxiliary orthopedic and orthodontic appliances and frenum reduction to ensure we achieve the results we need to do so. While our initial treatment plan is consistently in line with what we execute upon over the course of treatment, we do maintain a hefty "toolbox" of advanced, research-based therapies to deliver upon the results each child deserves.
On occasion, we do collaborate with a local ENT team for tonsil and adenoid removal, but we almost always identify this concern prior to initiating treatment for the handful of patients that might need this proceudre, and we will indicate the likelihood and timeline of this associated procedure so our patient families understand and know what to expect.
Teeth Straightening for Lifetime Retention
Depending on the age of the child and compliance with the prescribed therapy thus far, we will choose the individually-optimized therapy in conjunction with the parent. This includes but is not limited to Healthy Start by Orthotain Orthodontic Appliances, Invisalign, or traditional bands and brackets.