13302 Manchester Rd., St Louis, MO 63131 (314) 984-9900

Superior St. Louis Orthodontic Care for Children

Orthodontic Treatment for Children

Why is early treatment necessary?

  • Orthodontic treatment for children not only creates beautiful smiles and promotes confidence and self esteem, but it is also necessary in many cases to correct bite issues that can have adverse effects on the way children talk, chew their food and maintain their general oral health.
  • In their early years, children’s teeth and jawlines undergo significant growth so they are more easily aligned. After the molars erupt, which usually happens in the sixth year, the space in the mouth for teeth actually begins to decrease. So, once you have detected a possible problem it is best not to wait for an orthodontic evaluation because your child’s teeth will not straighten out naturally and will likely become less straight over time.

When should I seek an orthodontic evaluation?

  • In order to promote the best overall facial and dental development, children should have an orthodontic consultation by the time they reach age 7. Even so, if there is an evident problem at a younger age, you should seek an orthodontic evaluation sooner. For example, when there is a skeletal discrepancy that can be addressed at an early age, like skeletal crossbites, Dr. Fink starts monitoring children from age 3 at her St. Louis orthodontic office.
  • As a result, if you notice any of the following you should generally seek an orthodontic evaluation for your child:
    • thumb or finger sucking or tongue thrusting habits that remain after the permanent teeth have begun to emerge,
    • permanent teeth that have gaps or are crowded or overlap,
    • unusually early or late loss of baby teeth,
    • difficulty chewing or biting,
    • jaws that shift, pop, click or make any other sounds,
    • speech problems,
    • open mouth breathing,
    • biting the cheeks or the roof of the mouth,
    • facial imbalance or jaws that are out of proportion to the rest of the face,
    • grinding or clenching of the teeth, and/or
    • the upper and lower front teeth have a significant space between them or do not properly align from top to bottom and/or left to right when the upper back teeth are lowered and touch the lower back teeth.
  • Early orthodontic treatment is necessary in only a small percentage of children, so the evaluation typically is just for observation and Dr. Fink will continue to monitor your child’s progress at no charge. If a problem is or becomes evident, taking action early may prevent more serious problems from developing and avoid the extraction of permanent teeth. This will most likely make later stages of orthodontic treatment quicker, more comfortable and less complicated and expensive.

What will happen during the early and later stages of treatment?

  • Dr. Debra Fink is a leading St. Louis orthodontist and her treatment philosophy and ultimate goal is to complete the appropriate orthodontic treatment for each patient in the shortest possible time, while focusing on patient comfort and preventing teeth extraction.
  • In cases where early treatment is needed, there will be two phases of orthodontic treatment that combine directing jaw growth into the best possible position with aligning and straightening the teeth. The primary advantage of a two-phase treatment process is to maximize the opportunity to accomplish a healthy, stable, functional and beautiful smile for your child.
  • The first phase of treatment usually begins between the ages of 7 thru 10 and it is necessary to guide the jaw into the position that allows permanent teeth to erupt into the proper positions because teeth will usually come in straighter if they have the room to do so. That is, if the teeth are provided with the environment to erupt into the correct position then the original gums, bone and supporting tissue will naturally support straight teeth. This in turn provides a healthier, more esthetic and more stable position for each individual tooth and establishes the proper orientation and functionality of the upper and lower jaws. As a result of this phase of treatment, your child most often can avoid teeth extraction and surgical procedures to correct the relationship of the upper and lower jaws.
  • The first phase of treatment almost always leads to a second phase, but there will be an intermediate or resting period during which your child’s remaining permanent teeth erupt. Dr. Fink will monitor your child’s progress about every six months and then when it is appropriate your child will most likely begin the second phase of treatment.
  • The second phase of orthodontic treatment usually involves some form of braces and addresses the alignment of all permanent teeth with the goal of moving each tooth into the proper location in the mouth where it will be in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue and the other surrounding teeth. When this occurs, your child will have a beautiful and healthy smile and his/her teeth and jaws will function together properly. The final part of this phase of orthodontic treatment is called retention, and it uses retainers to maintain the final results of treatment.

What are the benefits of early treatment?

  • Early treatment at Dr. Fink's St. Louis orthodontic office produces a wide-ranging set of benefits for your child that most often include:
    • improving the facial appearance and providing a nicer smile,
    • lowering the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth,
    • preventing crowding in the mouth by making room for permanent teeth and guiding them to better positions,
    • avoiding the need for permanent teeth extraction, ▪ reducing the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth,
    • correcting the results of thumb or finger sucking habits or regular tongue thrusting,
    • eliminating difficulties with speaking, chewing, swallowing and closing the lips comfortably, and
    • eliminating crossbites that can lead to asymmetric facial growth.
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