The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic screening for children by age 7 to advise if treatment is indicated and the best time for that patient to be treated. The first permanent molars and incisors have usually come in by that time and crossbites, crowding, and other problems can be evaluated.
If early orthodontic treatment is indicated, the orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaw and help direct incoming permanent teeth. Early orthodontic treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, reduce the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb-sucking, and help with abnormal swallowing or speech problems. When orthodontic problems are present at a young age, early treatment may avoid more serious complications and simplify later, comprehensive treatment.
Complete orthodontic treatment usually begins just before the final baby molars are lost. This timing is recommended in order to make the best use of the space difference between the final baby teeth and permanent teeth. The most active period of jaw growth usually occurs at this same time of development.