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Why Should a Child First See an Orthodontist?

Orthodontics can play a huge role in young children appearance and health. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that an orthodontist examine children by the time they are seven years old. Yes. While baby teeth are still in their mouths. And yes, while their teeth and mouths are still developing. Our dentists are trained to identify bite issues at an early age and will refer a child to our orthodontist at the appropriate point in time.

To create a smile that lasts a lifetime, your child needs teeth that are straight and jaws that are aligned properly. That all begins with the baby teeth; the way they are aligned, when and how they fall out, and how much room they are allowing or not allowing for the emergence of permanent adult teeth. That’s why it’s a good idea to have an orthodontist exam your child while they still have their baby teeth.

While your child’s teeth may look straight, there may be underlying problems with the way adult teeth may be coming in, with deep bites, open bites, and cross bites, with the relationship of the upper and lower jaw, with tooth crowding, or problems that may be occurring due to thumb sucking or other habits. Orthodontists can pinpoint these problems, even if they are subtle, and can start correcting any problems to avoid potential problems for future adult teeth. By age seven, enough permanent teeth have emerged for your orthodontist to evaluate relationships developing between teeth, jaw and bite and make sure all will continue to develop as they should.
Your child may or may not need orthodontic work. That will be determined by the examination. But no matter what, you will get the peace of mind that early detection and treatment will result in a lifelong smile for your child.

How to tell if your child may need early orthodontic treatment

1. Difficulty chewing and/or biting

2. Mouth breathing

3. Your child continues to suck a thumb after age five

4. Speech impediments

5. Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)

6. Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner or even at all

7. Shifting of the jaw when your child opens or closes the mouth (cross bites)

8. Crowded front teeth around age seven or eight

9. Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five, and will have all the permanent teeth around age 13) 10. misplaced or blocked-out teeth

10. Has a jaw that makes sounds

11. Bites their cheek or the roof of their mouth

12. Has a facial imbalance

13. Grinds or clenches their teeth

14. Have jaws that appear too far forward or too far back

How will early prevention benefit my child?

Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between them, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.

Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 13. By the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, leaving little to no chance of extraction or surgery in the future.

If your child is between the ages of seven and eight and shows signs of needing orthodontic care, or you have been directed by your family dentist to visit the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule an appointment. Our team will provide your child with an initial exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child’s smile.

Why should children have an orthodontic screening no later than age 7?

Planning now can save smiles later

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have an initial orthodontic screening by the age of 7. By this age, all the permanent incisors (front teeth) as well as the permanent first molars should have erupted. If inadequate space exists, some of these teeth could become impacted. An evaluation at this time helps identify problems with eruptions.

Also at this time, we can evaluate growth discrepancies of the jaws, crossbites (when upper teeth hit inside the lower teeth), crowding, and the development of injury-prone dental protrusions. An early orthodontic screening enables us to advise you if treatment will even be necessary, and if so, determine the best time for your child to be treated.

Some signs or habits that may indicate the need for an early orthodontic examination include early or late loss of baby teeth, difficulty in chewing or biting, mouth breathing, thumb or finger sucking, crowding, displaced or blocked-out teeth, repeated biting of the cheek or roof of the mouth, teeth that meet abnormally or not at all, jaws or teeth that are out of proportion to one another, and a smile that is not symmetrical.

What are the benefits of an early evaluation and possible treatment?

For young patients who have clear indications for early orthodontic intervention, this type of treatment presents an opportunity to:
1. Guide the growth of the jaws

2. Regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches

3. Guide erupting permanent teeth to desirable positions

4. Lower the risk of traumatic injury to protruded upper incisors (front teeth)

5. Help eliminate harmful oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking which can cause open bites

6. Reduce or eliminate abnormal swallowing or some speech problems

7. Improve personal appearance and self-esteem

8. Potentially simplify and/or shorten treatment time for later comprehensive orthodontics

9. Reduce likelihood of impacted permanent teeth (teeth that should have come in, but have not), and preserve or gain space for permanent teeth that are appearing