Most children who have an orthodontic problem or will have in the future, should only be treated at the time the baby teeth have been lost and the permanent teeth (apart from wisdom teeth) are growing through. The usual age range for this is 12-14 years although there is great variability. However, there are a few orthodontic conditions that should be treated early, such as crossbites of the front or side teeth, teeth erupting incorrectly, extra teeth, a marked protrusion that is causing social problems (or, more rarely, has resulted in damage to the front teeth) and some other issues. Some dentists carry out extensive treatment for children (even as young as 5 or 6 years) who still have plenty of deciduous teeth. Removable plates are used, often for years, with expansive (and expensive) claims of the benefits of this early treatment. The scientific facts are different.
The evidence is that (apart from the few exceptions above) for most orthodontic patients, early treatment does NOT produce a more favourable skeletal (jaw) change, it does NOT eliminate the need for treatment at a later date, NOR does it reduce the need for extraction of permanent teeth. Early treatment neither leads to a better occlusal (bite) result, nor reduces the complexity of later treatment. As a matter of fact, many early orthodontic treatments lead to a less favourable outcome because of patient (and parent) ‘burnout’. By the time patients have reached the stage of dental development \when they’re ready for the main treatment, they’ve all lost interest and had enough time already wearing orthodontic devices – and paying the bills!
For these reasons, orthodontists avoid inflicting early treatment on youngsters if possible, leaving the treatment until teenage years when the teeth and bite are fully developed and can be fixed in one straight-forward treatment. Again, only orthodontists have the specialist training to practise orthodontics.