Timing of Orthodontic Treatment

by Dustin Burleson, DDS

Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry devoted to building beautiful smiles by bringing teeth, lips, and jaws into proper alignment. Straight teeth function better, are easier to clean, and are more likely to last your lifetime. Properly aligned jaws may reduce the risk of jaw joint dysfunction (TMJ). Orthodontics is a wonderful investment with life-long returns.

The practice of orthodontics involves the use of appliances to move teeth and modify growth of the jaws. Treatment may be recommended by your orthodontist using the following appliances:

  • Traditional Braces (attach to the outside surfaces of the teeth)

  • Lingual Braces (attach behind the teeth)

  • Expanders (removable or fixed appliances to widen the jaws)

  • Habit appliances (fixed appliances to control thumb sucking or tongue thrusting)

  • Space maintainers (hold space when baby teeth are lost early)

  • Retainers (maintain alignment of the teeth and bite)

  • Headgear (helps the orthodontist control jaw growth and alignment)

  • Functional appliances (also help the orthodontist achieve jaw alignment)

  • Early treatment and growth modification (may help prevent future tooth and jaw alignment problems)

Orthodontic Exams Should Begin No Later Than Age Seven

The following early warning signs usually indicate that your child should have an orthodontic exam:

  • Early or late loss of teeth

  • Difficulty in chewing or biting

  • Mouth breathing, loud snoring at night and fatigue during the day

  • Finger sucking or other oral habits

  • Crowding, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth

  • Jaws that shift, make sounds, protrude or retrude

  • Speech difficulty

  • Biting the cheek or biting into the roof of the mouth

  • Protruding teeth

  • Teeth that meet in an abnormal way or don't meet at all

  • Facial imbalance or asymmetry

  • Grinding or clenching of teeth

If your child is approaching the age of seven, it's time to make an appointment for an initial exam with your orthodontist. The American Association of Orthodontists has recommended that the proper age for a child's first visit to the orthodontist is no later than seven years of age. Often your orthodontist will identify a potential problem, but recommend monitoring the child's growth and development. He or she can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while baby teeth are present and recommend starting treatment at the best possible time to minimize treatment duration and cost.

Remember, your orthodontist can improve most tooth and jaw alignment problems at any age, but there is usually a best age to start treatment, in terms of the amount of improvement that can be achieved and the treatment cost and duration. Because every patient presents with unique orthodontic problems and growth considerations, the "best age" to start treatment is different for every patient. Therefore, the best time for a consultation with your orthodontist is as soon as a possible problem is noticed. To find an orthodontist in your area, visit the website of the American Association of Orthodontists at: www.braces.org 

Doctor Burleson is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics at the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Dentistry. He holds additional teaching affiliations with The Children's Mercy Hospital and Saint Luke's Hospital Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Teams. He also maintains a private practice in Kansas City, Missouri.

Dr. Burleson completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology, with distinction. He went on to receive his D.D.S. with distinction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, graduating with the highest academic standing in his class. Dr. Burleson then completed his residency and certificate of advanced graduate study in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics at the UMKC School of Dentistry. He is a board-certified Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics.

In the community, Dr. Burleson is active in his church, serves on the North Kansas City Schools Community Advisory Board and participates in the Smiles Change Lives Program. Dr. Burleson and his wife, Amy, reside in Kansas City, Missouri with their son Samuel.

You can reach Dr. Burleson's practice by calling (816) 741-5311 or visiting http://www.burlesonorthodontics.com. His office is located at 4151 N. Mulberry Drive, Suite 210, Kansas City, MO 64116. The email for Dr. Burleson's office is :info@burlesonortho.com

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