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All about interceptive orthodontics

20 May · 6 minutes

Whether due to a hereditary, skeletal or functional problem, the vast majority of children and pre-adolescents will wear orthodontics to correct the position of their teeth, but also to correct the development of their jaws. Today, parents have many solutions to treat their children's orthodontic problems early, avoiding the need for more extensive treatment in the future.

What is interceptive orthodontics?

It is a type of preventive orthodontics used only in children, to guide or correct poor growth of the teeth and jaw bones.

The aim is to be able to treat malocclusion problems at an early age, before growth is complete. Indeed, it is easier to act on the bones when they are in full development to avoid the appearance of more serious and complicated problems in adulthood.

However, it is important for parents to be aware that the vast majority of children will still need to wear conventional braces after their interceptive treatment, once they have reached dental maturity. This will make conventional orthodontic treatment much easier.

What are its objectives?

The aim of interceptive orthodontics, also known as premature orthodontics, is firstly to treat the development of the jaw bones in time, so that they are in the right position and size, when it is still easy to guide their growth. It is not just a question of aesthetics, as it acts directly on the bone structure to avoid future functional and health problems.

If mandibular insufficiency is not treated during bone growth, much more complex treatments will be required in adulthood.

At what age can interceptive orthodontics be worn?

All children are different and have their own rate of growth. However, a first visit to the orthodontist around the age of 6 is recommended to check that the bones and teeth are developing correctly.

The doctor will be able to advise parents about the need to start treatment around this age. Children usually wear an interceptive appliance between the ages of 6 and 11, before they reach oral maturity. During this period, both baby teeth and permanent teeth live together in the mouth.

What types of dental problems can be treated?

The following bone and dental problems can be treated with interceptive orthodontics:

  • To correct the growth of the lower jaw, when it is too large or too small.
  • To widen the bones of the upper jaw.
  • To correct malocclusion problems
  • To correct lack of space to prepare the dentition for the appearance of the permanent teeth.
  • To correct problems related to thumb sucking which deforms the jaw.

When is this type of treatment recommended?

It is easy to detect poor growth of teeth or jaw bones in order to recommend interceptive treatment. Children often present the following problems:

  • Difficulty in chewing / biting
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Difficulty pronouncing certain words and sounds correctly
  • Crowded teeth
  • Teeth are spaced too far apart

Types of devices

There are two types of braces for treating children from the age of 6 years and upwards, which can be differentiated between fixed and removable braces.

Fixed devices:

  • Palatal expander
  • Face mask
  • Extraoral anchorage
  • Chin support

Removable devices:

  • Removable plate or false palate: it can be complemented with a grid to prevent the child from sucking his or her thumb, or accessories to extend the palate and move the teeth.

How long does the treatment last?

It will depend on the nature of the problem to be treated and the individual child. If the specialist's recommendations are followed to the letter, the device is worn correctly and for the indicated length of time, treatment will last approximately 6 to 18 months for the vast majority of patients.

Will my child need another orthodontic treatment afterwards?

Most children will have to wear conventional braces after interceptive orthodontic treatment. Treatment can begin around the age of 12, once all the permanent teeth have erupted. It is called corrective orthodontics, because the aim now is to correct the position of the teeth.

Where does this need come from? Simply because the goal of interceptive orthodontics is to correct bone growth. However, this type of treatment is performed before all the permanent teeth erupt. Therefore, in most cases, it will be necessary to opt for a later conventional solution to improve the position of the teeth.

Let us now look at what type of braces can be used for corrective orthodontics.


The most common treatment is the use of dental braces. There are currently a multitude of devices and techniques: metal, ceramic or sapphire for aesthetic purposes, or self-ligating braces.

Regardless of the type of appliance chosen, it is an effective treatment that will correctly position the teeth to achieve perfect occlusion and alignment.

Lingual orthodontics

More discreet than the previous option, these are also braces, except that they are placed on the back of the teeth for treatment that is completely invisible from the outside. Although it can be a little uncomfortable at first and it may be difficult to pronounce certain sounds correctly, it is an option to consider for pre-teens and teenagers who wish to wear fixed and invisible braces.

Impress invisible aligners

Another option to consider is clear aligners for a more aesthetic, practical and comfortable treatment. As they are removable, they offer better dental hygiene and more freedom for children when it comes to eating. They are not restricted and can eat normally without the braces breaking or coming off. It is also an ideal option for sporty children, who do not run the risk of injury if they fall or receive a blow.

Advantages and inconvenients

By taking care of your child's dental development problems at an early age, you are doing much more than treating a cosmetic problem. Interceptive orthodontics is first and foremost a health issue and prevents the development of more serious problems in adulthood as we have already discussed.

By acting on the bones before growth is complete, it will be easier to achieve good results without resorting to more invasive treatment.

You should also take into account that it will be easier, quicker and less expensive to carry out corrective orthodontic treatment after interceptive treatment.

However, it is sometimes difficult to explain to a child so young that they have to wear braces. They are often uncomfortable and need some time to adapt, especially at mealtimes and bedtime, when thumb sucking is not possible. It will take a lot of patience to explain to them why this treatment is so important for them.

What is the risk of not wearing braces on time?

Once bone growth has finished, it will be much more complicated to treat a jaw problem. Wearing simple orthodontics will do nothing about it, and will require much longer treatment.

Adults who have not been treated will need to undergo tooth extractions or maxillofacial surgery. In addition, they will need to wear traditional braces.

Therefore, treatment will be longer, more expensive and more complex in adulthood, where it is not always easy to find the time and courage to take the step.

Where does the need for interceptive orthodontics come from?

The reason why some children will need braces so early and others will not is because every dentition is unique and can be influenced by different factors.

Firstly, anatomical origins must be taken into account. We are all different and our dentition is no exception to the rule. Some children grow with a normal jaw, while other children do not.

Inheritance must also be taken into account. If you have had problems of this kind when you were younger, your child may also suffer from them. In this case, it is advisable to have a check-up as soon as possible to detect the presence of an anomaly.

Finally, the functional habits of each individual can affect the development of the jaw and teeth, such as thumb sucking, dummy sucking, mouth breathing or abnormal swallowing.

Conclusions: Does my child need interceptive orthodontics?

We advise you to take your child to the orthodontist from the age of 6 for an initial check-up. After analysing their dentition and the development of their jaw, the orthodontist will be able to tell you whether or not it is necessary to start treatment.

Follow the advice of your specialist. This will prevent your child from having to undergo more extensive treatment as an adult.

Using a preventive device will make corrective treatments easier, quicker and also cheaper.

Explain why he or she needs to wear a brace and allow for the necessary adaptation time.

Frequent questions

What is the difference between interceptive and corrective orthodontics? 

The first takes place between the ages of 6 and 11 and acts on the development of the jaw bones and teeth. The second takes place after interceptive orthodontics, once dental maturity has been reached, to act directly on the teeth.

Is it necessary to have an X-ray before starting treatment?

Yes, it is always very important to have an X-ray before starting any orthodontic treatment.

What are the devices like?

There are two main categories of braces, fixed and removable. The orthodontist can recommend the most appropriate solution for your child and the problem to be treated.

Do the devices bother children?

Your child will need some time to adjust to the device, especially if they are fixed devices. This includes getting used to talking, eating and falling asleep without sucking their thumb. It is more a matter of discomfort than pain.

What foods should be avoided while wearing a brace?

Depending on the device worn, the springs make it difficult to swallow food that gets stuck in the metal. In general, it is advisable to avoid eating chewing gum, sticky sweets or biting directly into hard food or fruit.

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