Contrary to what one might think, treating dental malocclusion problems when children are still growing can also prevent problems in adulthood. To this end, dentists recommend interceptive or functional orthodontics, which, although different from preventive orthodontics, also has benefits for dental health by preventing functional and aesthetic problems.
What is interceptive orthodontics?
This type of paediatric orthodontics is performed with the objective of correcting malocclusions early so that the child’s craniofacial growth is reoriented. In other words, the main function of interceptive orthodontics is to control and balance the position, but also the size, of the maxillary bone.
At this stage, at the dental level, we are in a period known as “mixed dentition” in which both milk teeth and permanent teeth coexist. With interceptive orthodontics, we will treat not so much the teeth but the bone growth.
You may be interested in How interceptive orthodontics corrects overbite.
At what age do children get braces?
Interceptive orthodontics is recommended for children from 6 to 12 years of age to guide the correct growth of the maxillary bones. As mentioned above, the objective of orthodontics is to correct problems related to dental and bone position before adulthood. This is why regular check-ups with a pediatric dentist/orthodontist are so important for the health and dental development of children.
In fact, this type of orthodontics also allows minimizing further treatments, not only during childhood, but also during adulthood, when functional, but especially aesthetic factors are so important these days. In short, interceptive orthodontics is a treatment that can anticipate future problems.
Dental problems solved by interceptive orthodontics in children
The most common corrections made at an early age are:
- Expansion of maxillary bones in excessively compressed arches.
- The stimulation of mandibular growth or, on the contrary, its retardation.
- The generation of space to accommodate all permanent teeth when they erupt, thus avoiding dental crowding.
- Severe malocclusions that, in the adult stage, could only be solved by surgery.
- On the other hand, it would also be focused on the elimination of harmful habits (tongue thrusting, digital suction…) that can deform the bone and create dental malpositions.
Obviously, all these problems would be diagnosed by a specialist in children’s dentistry who, in regular check-ups, should detect if there is any anomaly at an early age. That is why, from our practice, we recommend that the first visit to the dentist should be made from the age of 6 years (or earlier).
Interceptive orthodontic treatment
In interceptive orthodontic treatment, the appliances can be either fixed or removable, and it will be the orthodontist who decides which type is the most appropriate according to the type of problem the patient presents, as well as his or her age and routines.
After this treatment, it may be necessary to place corrective orthodontics to achieve a correct alignment of the teeth in child patients from 12 years of age when, foreseeably, all the permanent teeth have already erupted, thus improving the occlusion of the mouth.
In any case, the treatment will always be shorter than if we had never carried out any type of treatment and, in addition, we will have previously solved all the patient’s bone problems, being only necessary to correct the alignment and occlusion.
In this case, it is possible to opt for treatment with different types of brackets, or with Invisalign aligners (also available for adolescents and children), depending on the aesthetic requirements of each patient.
Preventive and interceptive orthodontics: Main differences
Both preventive orthodontics and interceptive orthodontics are very commonly used treatments for patients who undergo orthodontics at an early age. That is why today we are going to use this post to talk about their main differences.
Preventive Orthodontics is that which aims to carry out a series of actions to preserve the integrity of the occlusion. It is part of Orthodontics that acts before the appearance of deviations when the diagnosis indicates that these are going to occur. Within this type of orthodontics, we would find space maintainers, used when milk teeth (or even permanent teeth) are lost prematurely, and we do not want the space to be lost. Supernumerary or ankylosed (permanently attached to the bone) teeth may also be extracted.
In Interceptive Orthodontics, the main objective is to correct malocclusions early by reorienting craniofacial growth. This type of orthodontics includes the correction of anterior, transverse and vertical bone discrepancies (for example, when the lower jaw is more advanced than the upper jaw or when the upper jaw is narrower than the upper jaw).
Therefore, among the actions planned for the correct development of the jaw, it is possible to expand the jaws, and stimulate and/or slow down mandibular growth, leaving the correction of exclusively dental problems for when the permanent teeth have erupted. The orthodontist can influence or guide the growth of the maxilla and mandible while the child is growing, once it has stopped growing, it is no longer possible.
It would also be focused on the elimination of harmful habits (tongue thrusting, digital suction…) that can deform the bone and create dental malpositions. In interceptive orthodontics, appliances can be either fixed or removable, and it will be the orthodontist who decides which type of appliance is the most appropriate according to the patient’s malocclusion, age and routines.