Ask anyone what image they conjure up when you say the word “orthodontics” and, more often than not, it will be a gawky teen in a full set of metal braces. While this is a persistent stereotype, the truth is that patients of all ages can benefit from orthodontic care, including young children! Treatment in the teen years is popular indeed, but early orthodontic evaluations are also an important part of oral health. In fact, these evaluations are valuable enough that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child have one by the age of seven. Keep reading to find out why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7!
As a parent, you may find this recommendation a little confusing. After all, most children this age still have developing mouths and a large number of baby teeth remaining. Why would they need to see an orthodontist this early? The short answer is that often an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
At Timock Family Orthodontics, we believe in taking a conservative approach to orthodontic care. Early orthodontic exams (and subsequent growth and development checks) play a role in that by giving us the chance to catch and monitor orthodontic issues sooner rather than later. Doing so can help prevent these issues from becoming more severe and having a negative impact on a child’s teeth and bite in the future.
Because we treat many young patients in our practice, we’ve been able to witness firsthand over the years how early evaluations, monitoring, and any indicated treatment can benefit a child’s oral health. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at how his or her mouth is developing! Click here to contact us for a complimentary consultation, and keep reading below to learn more about what Dr. Timock and Dr. Wire will be looking for during this evaluation.
Crowding and Spacing
Experienced orthodontists like Dr. Timock and Dr. Wire will be able to tell if a young child is experiencing problems with excessive crowding or spacing. They will also be able to determine if this is likely to be a future issue. We may see spacing issues if a tooth has been lost prematurely, if one has never developed, or when the teeth are too small or narrow. If crowding is causing a problem, we can often address it by selective extraction of primary teeth or, in more severe cases, through dental arch development and expansion.
Crooked teeth are not only harder to clean, they are also more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If left untreated over a long period of time, this can compromise the surrounding gum tissue. Eventually, it could even begin to affect the shape and position of the gumline. Although we can successfully align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on certain malocclusions can minimize some of that early wear and tear in order to give your kid the best chance at a healthy smile!
Tooth Loss and Eruption
It is easy to underestimate the importance of baby teeth. They all fall out eventually, right? However, these primary teeth are actually placeholders for our permanent teeth, which means where they are located and when they are lost is an important matter. Baby teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order. If Dr. Timock or Dr. Wire notices any significant deviation from this pattern during the exam, it could signify a developmental issue that may require further attention.
By the time they are ready for an orthodontic evaluation, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If a child has any more or less than this, it could indicate that there are missing, crowded, or extra teeth. For some patients, we may choose to a primary tooth removed early. In other cases, we may opt to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent other problems later on.
Protruding front teeth are often seen primarily as a cosmetic concern. However, the effects of an overbite pattern can go beyond that, leading to pain in the jaw, excessive tooth wear, and interference with normal speech patterns.
While we will usually wait until a child’s mouth has matured more before correcting an overbite, there are still a number of treatment options for reducing the risk of pain and traumatic injury as they are growing. These corrective measures often have the added benefit of improving a child’s confidence and self-esteem!
When a child is dealing with an underbite, it is important to determine whether the malocclusion is caused by problems with the eruption of the teeth or by the relationship of the jaws. While we may need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin comprehensive, definitive treatment, early treatment can still important to help avoid damage to the front teeth and to begin addressing and encouraging skeletal correction. Underbite patients who receive treatment between the ages of about 7-10 tend to be less likely to need corrective jaw surgery when they are older!
A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding, reduced airway function, and cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood is more predictable and requires less pressure and less invasive appliances. It can also eliminate shifts in the bite that can lead to asymmetric jaw growth, reduce crowding and create space for the permanent teeth to erupt, and improve the quality of your child’s airway.
Anterior Open Bites and Habits
In an anterior open bite, the front teeth do not overlap enough, often resulting in poor function and excessive wear on back teeth. This can be caused by oral habits such as extended finger or thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or if a child uses a bottle or pacifier for too long.
In these cases, our expert team will be happy to work with both you and your child to help eliminate any destructive habits early on in order to allow their dental development to continue normally.
Early Evaluations Equal Healthier Smiles at Timock Family Orthodontics
When you understand what Dr. Timock and Dr. Wire will be looking for during your child’s consultation, it is easy to see why early orthodontic evaluations are such a vital component of oral health! Scheduling your child for a visit with us around the age of seven may prevent the need for more invasive procedures as a teen or adult. Even if no treatment is indicated, it will provide you peace of mind knowing that our board-certified experts are monitoring the growth and dental development of your child.
At Timock Family Orthodontics, we want to create a positive orthodontic experience for your entire family! We offer a wide range of orthodontic services to patients of all ages in a warm and caring environment and work hard to exceed your expectations. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, please get in touch with us today to schedule a complimentary consultation! This is the perfect time to set them up for a lifetime of beautiful and healthy smiles.