If you're concerned about your child's teeth and how they look, you may wonder if your little one is too young for braces. Although some states now want orthodontists to put braces on kids as young as six years old, your orthodontist may suggest otherwise. The dentist may offer early intervention treatments, such as removable retainers, to help correct defects in your child's teeth and jaw bones. Here's what early intervention means and why it's important to your child's dental health.

What's Early Intervention Treatment?

Early intervention treatment for kids usually begins around age 7. Orthodontists recommend that children receive their first orthodontic exams and treatments at this time. In most cases, early intervention exams can reveal potential orthodontic problems, such as overjets and crossbites, right away. So, what happens if your child does have an orthodontic problem with their teeth and jaws?

Your child's dentist treats early orthodontic problems in two phases. The phases vary in length but two years is the maximum time for each one, followed by a one to two year resting period. For instance, if your child begins their intervention treatment at age 7, they'll complete the first phase at around 9 years of age and begin the second phase at 11 years of age.

What Happens During the First Phase?

During the first phase, your child generally wears a removable appliance called a retainer on their teeth at night. The retainer applies gentle pressure on your child's teeth to move them in the correct position. Your child must wear the retainer as prescribed throughout the first phase or the treatment won't work properly. In most cases, your child will wear multiple retainers during the treatment to accommodate the growth and development of their jawbone.

Once the first phase ends, the dentist will evaluate your little one to see if they need to move to the second phase or not.

How Does the Second Phase Work?

If the retainers didn't correct the problem, the orthodontist will move forward with the second phase. The second phase involves the placement of metal braces. Because braces aren't removable, the dentist will need to custom-fit them to your child's teeth and jaws. 

Custom-fitted braces have metal pieces or brackets that move along with your child's jawbones. The dentist glues each metal piece to your little one's teeth, then connects them together with wires. The wires don't move with the brackets, so the dentist will need to adjust them every four to six weeks

Your child's gums will be sore after each adjustment. You can alleviate the discomfort by having your child rinse with warm salt water each night. If necessary, the dentist may prescribe a mild pain medication to ease the discomfort.

If your child has problems with their teeth that require orthodontic treatment, consult with an orthodontist. Although wearing braces isn't always the best option for kids, early intervention may be instead.