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Treat them during the ‘golden’ age

As cute as it looks, stop finger-sucking habit early to avoid permanent detrimental effects. Photo by the author

By: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lau May Nak, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Saritha Sivarajan

Braces treatment is much more than the conventional image of square-shaped metal and wires that adorn a teenager’s smile at around age 12. In fact, some orthodontic treatments begin much earlier to safeguard your oral health from long-term issues. These early interventions fall under the umbrella of “interceptive orthodontic treatment.”

Interceptive orthodontic treatment aims to prevent or mitigate the severity of developing dental or oral problems. Successful interceptive orthodontic measures can often reduce the necessity for extensive treatments or simplify the procedures. Surprisingly, statistics reveal that a mere 15% of cases require a fully comprehensive orthodontic solution, while 49% benefit from significant improvement through interceptive treatment. However, it’s concerning that only 20% of individuals within our communities opt for these recommended procedures. This highlights the importance of raising awareness to ensure that children in Malaysia receive timely treatment before it’s too late.

The optimal window for interceptive orthodontic treatment, often referred to as the “golden” period, typically falls between 8 to 10 years of age. Most conditions suitable for interceptive orthodontic care manifest by the age of 10. Among the pivotal and life-changing treatments in this category are habit cessation, underbite correction, protraction headgear therapy, Twin Block appliances therapy, and more.

Non-nutritive habits like finger-sucking are widespread among children. If these habits cease before the age of 12, there’s a good chance of spontaneous improvement or correction, particularly if halted before the age of 6 or 7. If attempts to curb the habit at home prove ineffective, seeking professional dental care is essential.

As cute as it looks, stop finger-sucking habit early to avoid permanent detrimental effects.

Underbite, also known as a reverse bite, is a dental condition where the lower front teeth protrude further than the upper ones, clinically termed an “anterior crossbite” or “Class III malocclusion.” Among Asians, underbites are relatively common. Early detection and treatment are crucial, as severe underbites can be detrimental to both teeth and gums. In the most extreme cases, the affected tooth can become mobile or non-vital.

Traditionally, underbite corrections have involved removable braces or partial fixed braces without addressing jaw disharmony. However, a game-changer has emerged in the form of protraction headgear, boasting a remarkable 70% success rate. This headgear, also known as a facemask or reverse headgear, is generally recommended for children under the age of 10 with underbites and elongated lower jaws. Successful use of protraction headgear not only shifts upper teeth forward but also encourages forward growth of the upper jaw. This reduces the need for major jaw surgery by as much as 3.5 times when a child with an underbite and elongated lower jaw reaches adulthood. Considering the risks associated with major jaw surgery, it is highly advisable to identify the need for protraction headgear therapy and commence treatment early, ideally before the age of 10.

So, don’t delay! Take action during the “golden” years of interceptive orthodontic treatment to unlock the full potential of your child’s oral health.


The authors are from the Department of Paediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya.

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