Why Early Treatment Matters for Your Child’s Smile

The foundation for a healthy smile begins before your child’s first tooth ever breaks through the surface of their gums. A child’s teeth start forming in the second trimester of pregnancy and by the time they’re born, some of them are already fully developed in the jaw. That means the earlier you initiate preventative oral care, the better chance your child will have at avoiding problems in the future! In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic evaluation around age seven. Knowing why early treatment matters for your child’s smile can help you prepare from day one!

Young children have mouths that are still developing and a good mix of permanent and baby teeth present. At this point, an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Eric Howard will be able to evaluate their teeth, jaw, and overall bite. This will allow him to identify any potential issues present, and determine if treatment is appropriate, whether now or in the future. For problems that are likely to become more serious over time, early treatment may be recommended. This is also referred to as interceptive treatment. 

Here at Howard Orthodontics, we use interceptive treatment to intercept any developing problems and correct them. This allows us to guide the growth of the facial and jawbones, provide enough space for the incoming adult teeth, and give a child the best start possible for their smile! 

Who benefits from interceptive treatment?

There are several common problems that Dr. Howard may recommend treating while a child still has their primary teeth. These may 


  • underbites
  • overbites
  • crossbites
  • Very crowded teeth
  • teeth with excessive spacing
  • extra or missing teeth
  • teeth that meet abnormally or not at all 
  • poor oral habits

Some orthodontic issues are genetic, like crowded teeth, excess spacing, missing teeth, and other irregularities. Others may be acquired through traumatic injury, extended thumb-sucking or pacifier use, or premature tooth loss. Whatever the underlying cause, a bad bite can affect a child’s facial development, teeth, and the cosmetic appearance of their smile. Interceptive treatment can address all of these concerns—and more! 

What does early orthodontic treatment look like?

Interceptive treatment with Howard Orthodontics can take many forms. Many of the most common ones don’t even require the use of brackets or wires! Some examples of this include: 

  • removing one or more primary teeth to help guide the proper placement of the permanent teeth
  • using expanders to widen the upper jaw and provide space for very crowded teeth
  • placing teeth spacers to save a spot for permanent teeth if a primary tooth has been lost early due to injury or decay

With early evaluations, we’re able to follow the normal patterns of a child’s dental growth and development. This allows Dr. Howard to correct orthodontic issues at the most optimal time. Many of these problems can be treated with relative ease in a child whose mouth is still developing. Once their jawbones stop growing, however, they may require more complex and invasive treatment. This normally occurs between the ages of 16-18.

Interceptive orthodontics with Howard Orthodontics can achieve lasting results for many orthodontic issues and may lessen the impact of others. Treatment during this time can:

  • create space for the proper eruption of the permanent teeth
  • enhance the growth of a child’s jaw
  • promote a healthier relationship between the teeth and jaws
  • give the child a straighter and more symmetrical smile
  • improve the child’s overall oral health.

Most patients we see in our Willow Street office will still require a second phase of treatment with braces or aligners to complete the alignment process, something we tend to initiate once all their permanent teeth are in place. This is the finishing touch that will leave them with a beautifully straightened smile for years to come! 

What are the benefits of early orthodontic evaluations?

Early childhood evaluations give your child the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles. They’re beneficial even if no immediate treatment is necessary following their initial check-up. In cases like these, Dr. Howard will recommend periodic follow-up visits to assess your child’s smile as they grow. These appointments will allow him to: 

  • monitor the progress of emerging permanent teeth
  • monitor the progress of facial and jaw development
  • reduce the need for jaw surgery later in life
  • guide emerging teeth into the ideal positions
  • detect hidden dental problems
  • reduce the risk of impacted teeth
  • reduce the risk of needing tooth extractions in the future

Being able to approach your child’s smile proactively instead of reactively gives us the chance to provide them with the care they need at the time it will be most beneficial to them!

Boost your child’s oral health with Howard Orthodontics

Interceptive orthodontics will look different for every child, but the bottom line is that many problems are easier to correct if they’re found and treated early. Waiting until all their permanent teeth come in or until their facial growth is nearly complete may make it more difficult to treat certain issues. 

The good news is that an early evaluation with Dr. Howard doesn’t require a referral and can alert you to any potential problems! You can trust our expert team to recommend treatment only when it’s most appropriate for your child. We know that their smile is as unique as they are! That’s why Dr. Howard will create a customized treatment plan around their specific needs and goals. 

If you’d like to learn more about how your child could benefit from interceptive orthodontics, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Howard and the rest of our Willow Street orthodontic team!