There are some distinct differences between men & women when evaluating their dental health. These differences start early on in development. Girls tend to mature faster than boys. They reach puberty before boys & their bones generally finish developing sooner too[i].
Adequate facial growth & symmetry is largely due to proper bone development. Upper & lower jaw bones that are underdeveloped will cause teeth to be crowded and often cause bite or speech problems. Additionally, both overdeveloped & underdeveloped jaws will cause profile changes & may cause facial asymmetry.
To prevent asymmetrical growth from affecting a patients profile. It is recommended that all children have a consultation with an orthodontist by age 7. This is especially critical for girls who will develop faster. Thus, the window of opportunity to positively affect facial growth is limited.
Between the ages of 7-12 dentists have the ability to positively affect facial growth with the use of functional appliances.[ii] These intraoral appliances help expand narrow, undeveloped bones. There are many different types; but, the most common are expansion appliances. These appliances are small, removable acrylic devices with a midline screw that is opened 2-5 times per week to help expand upper and lower jaws. They are placed against the palate or under the tongue against the teeth & help widen these areas allowing more room for the permanent teeth to erupt.
It is a common misconception that parents should wait until kids get all their permanent teeth before having an orthodontic consultation. By age 11-13, when most kids’ permanent teeth erupt, the options to correct underdeveloped bones are very limited. As some girls reach puberty as early as 13, it is imperative to start orthodontic treatment early when indicated.
Puberty brings a whole new set of challenges due to the surge in hormones which happen at their age. This surge in hormones will affect the health of the gums & teeth. The effects of this will be covered in part 2 of our story – Oral health changes during puberty. Stay tuned…