When you hear the word orthodontics, does your mind automatically conjure up the image of a gawky teen in a full set of braces? If so, you’re not alone! This stereotype has had some serious staying power, but the truth is, orthodontics can benefit teens, adults, and children. When it comes to the latter, the American Association of Orthodontists actually recommends an orthodontic visit for all children by the time they’re about seven years old. Let’s take a look at what’s behind this recommendation, why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7, and the importance of these early childhood evaluations!
Transitioning from primary teeth to permanent teeth
Here at Sandifer Orthodontics, we often hear from parents who wonder if their young child really needs an orthodontic evaluation. After all, most kids this age will have a significant number of baby teeth left, and their mouths are still developing. While that’s true, the transition from primary to permanent teeth is an important one. Where they’re located and when they fall out sets the foundation for the eruption of the permanent teeth and their ultimate position in the mouth.
When you schedule a complimentary consultation with our Dr. Sandifer, she will examine your child’s mouth and assess their dental development. These early evaluations can pick up on any potential issues that are present before they have the chance to become more serious. Providing children with the orthodontic care they need when they would benefit from it the most can give them the best start to a lifetime of healthy smiles! We’ll outline some of the most common issues Dr. Sandifer will be looking for below.
Tooth loss and eruption
A child’s baby teeth will usually fall out in a fairly specific order. If there’s any significant deviation from this pattern, it may signify a developmental issue that needs attention. By the age of seven, children should have at least four permanent molars and two to four permanent incisors. If a child has more or less than this, it could be due to missing, crowded, or extra teeth. Sometimes removing a primary tooth early or maintaining a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely can prevent bigger problems from developing later on.
Crowding and spacing
By the time a child is seven, an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Sandifer will be able to tell if they have—or are likely to have—problems with excessive crowding or spacing. We often see spacing issues when a tooth has been lost prematurely, one has never developed, or the teeth are too small or spaced too far apart. To successfully correct crowding, we may need to expand the arches or remove certain teeth.
Crooked teeth are more difficult to clean, increasing the chances of developing cavities and tooth decay. They’re also susceptible to uneven damage and wear, which can compromise the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. Misalignment of the teeth and jaw can cause discomfort, headaches, and a variety of other symptoms. We can align teeth at almost any age, but there are a number of benefits to addressing orthodontic issues like these in childhood. At this stage, the mouth is developing and the jaw is still growing, making treatment easier and sometimes more successful.
By the time a child is seven, front teeth that noticeably protrude will be obvious. While this is often seen as a cosmetic concern, an overbite can also increase the risk of potential injury to the permanent teeth. In some cases, it may affect a child’s speech. We’ll need to wait until a child’s mouth has finished growing before we’re able to permanently correct an overbite, but we can help reduce the severity of the issue and make things easier for them until their growth is complete.
In an underbite situation, the lower jaw grows too far forward. This can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. We’ll typically need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin their treatment, around their mid to late teen years. However, early treatment is still important to help avoid any bite shifting or damage to the front teeth. We can do this by “jumping the bite” with braces coupled with some appliances, then following it up with treatment in their teenage years. Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of about 7-10 also tend to be much less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older.
A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding, or cause the jaw to shift to one side. Expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood can help to reduce crowding and create space for the front teeth to come through uninterrupted. Expansion can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw. Some crossbites can cause asymmetrical growth of the lower jaw causing permanent facial deformities if not corrected at a younger age. Waiting on all of the permanent teeth to come in would be too late for this patient with asymmetrical growth.
Anterior open bites and deep bites
With a deep bite, the child’s top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This can be an indicator of a small lower jaw. With an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This can be caused by poor oral habits, such as extended thumb sucking, bottle feedings, or pacifier use. In cases like this, our team is happy to work with parents to help eliminate any destructive habits early on, allowing dental development to continue normally.
Find your child’s best smile at Sandifer Orthodontics
Early orthodontic evaluations are one of the easiest ways to ensure your child has a healthy smile! Growth sutures can fuse/harden in the upper jaw as early as age 11. Orthodontic procedures performed after this point often take more time and may involve tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for more serious treatment as a teen/adult and start your child on the path towards a lifetime of happy smiles. If you have a young child ready for their first orthodontic visit, get in touch today to schedule their FREE evaluation with Dr. Sandifer!