Clinical practice. Later orthodontic complications caused by risk factors observed in the early years of life

Eur J Pediatr. 2010 Jun;169(6):651-5. doi: 10.1007/s00431-009-1098-6. Epub 2009 Oct 27.


Primary preventive strategies for oral health are an essential public health priority. Paediatricians have frequent contact with families during routine preventive visits in the child's first few years of life and are in an ideal and unique position, to advise families about the prevention of oral diseases in their children. Primary prevention is always recommended in very young children, to promote positive outcomes during childhood and later adulthood. The knowledge paediatricians acquire about orofacial growth may enhance the implementation and eventual success of a preventive programme. In view of the widespread lack of any orthodontic knowledge amongst paediatricians, this paper describes most common and distinctive symptoms appearing frequently in the early stages of a child's development that are easily detectable by clinicians. It is difficult to define preventive strategies to prevent malocclusion owing to its multifactorial origin. There are some recognised behaviours, however, that should be discouraged to allow for ideal craniofacial development and some that require early referral to the orthodontist. The following disorders are easily diagnosed by the paediatrician or parents and represent conditions in which early intervention might be appropriate to prevent future possible orofacial dysfunction: different sucking habits persisting beyond 3 years of age, mouth breathing and significant deviations from established teeth eruption norms. It is suggested that early referral to a paediatric dentist or orthodontist is indicated when any of these conditions are observed. In general, measures to prevent malocclusion should be based on providing good incentives to promote normal growth and development of the face and the elimination of potential interferences that may harm these processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malocclusion / prevention & control*
  • Mass Screening*
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatrics
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sucking Behavior
  • Tooth Eruption