A crossbite is when the jaw shifts to one side, causing some of the upper teeth bite down on the inside of the lower teeth. If your child has this condition, his or her orthodontist will likely recommend early braces. You may be wondering, “Why does the orthodontist want to begin treatment when there are still so many baby teeth?” Keep reading to learn why crossbites—and other conditions—may require early orthodontic care.

Why Does a Crossbite Require Braces at an Early Age?

Usually, the best time to treat a crossbite is between ages 6 and 9, when some of the child’s baby teeth are still present. Why? “When the baby teeth are still in, we have more treatment options because we have more flexibility in moving the teeth,” explains orthodontist Dr. Robert Williams in this NPR Morning Edition story. The upper jaw is made of two pieces of bone, and when the child is between ages 6 and 9, these bones can be widened with ease. As the patient gets older, these two bones of the upper jaw fuse and make it impossible to widen for crossbite correction without surgery. Additionally, according to the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), “Early treatment can be in a patient’s best interests if their problem is one that could become more serious over time if left untreated.”

Other Conditions that May Require Early Intervention

In addition to crossbite, other types of malocclusion that may require early treatment include:

  • Underbite
  • Overjet
  • Severe crowding
  • Excessively spaced teeth
  • Extra or missing teeth
  • Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
  • Problems caused by thumbsucking, pacifiers, or other oral habits

Only a trained orthodontist can determine the best treatment method and timing for each child. If Dr. Dougherty recommends early orthodontic treatment, that doesn’t necessarily mean braces. She may prescribe a fixed or removable appliance, carefully-timed tooth extraction, braces, or some combination of those treatments.

Remember: The AAO recommends taking your child for his or her first orthodontic check-up no later than age 7. See our previous post for more info on Common Orthodontic Problems in Growing Kids.

Does your child have a crossbite or other condition that may warrant early braces? Contact us today to schedule your free consultationwith St. Louis orthodontist, Dr. Dougherty.