Why Your Child Should See An Orthodontist By Age 7

Although many people still tend to associate teens in braces with orthodontics above anything else, the truth is that patients of all ages can benefit from orthodontic care, including young children! While treatment in the teen years is indeed popular, early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of overall oral health, too. In fact, they’re so important that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have one by the time they’re seven years old.

As a parent, this recommendation might be a little confusing because most children at this age still have developing mouths and a number of baby teeth.  You may wonder why they would need to see an orthodontist this early. At Selden Orthodontics, we take a preventative approach to orthodontic care, and early orthodontic exams play a role in that! These visits give us the chance to catch any existing or potential orthodontic issues sooner rather than later.  This can help prevent these issues from having a negative impact on their future teeth and bite.

We treat many younger patients in our practice, and our expert team has been able to observe firsthand how starting treatment early can benefit a child’s oral health.  If you are ready for your young child to have their first orthodontic appointment, we would love to meet both of you and take a look at how their mouth is developing so far! Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation, and keep reading below to learn more about what we will be checking for during this initial evaluation.

Misalignment

When teeth are crooked, they’re not only harder to clean efficiently, they’re also more susceptible to damage and wear. Over a long enough period of time, this can actually compromise the surrounding gum tissue, and may even affect the shape and position of the gum line. While we’re able to successfully align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on correcting these issues gives kids the best chance at a healthy smile by minimizing some of that early wear and tear. 

Crowding and spacing

An experienced orthodontist will normally be able to tell if a young child is experiencing problems with excessive crowding or spacing, or if they’re likely to in the future. We may see spacing issues if a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or when the teeth are too small or spaced farther apart than normal. If it’s crowding that’s causing a problem, we can often correct it by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.

Tooth loss and eruption

Many of us underestimate the importance of baby teeth. After all, they fall out eventually, anyway, right? But baby teeth are the placeholders for our permanent teeth, so where they’re located and when they’re lost matters more than you might think. Primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order. If we notice any significant deviation from that pattern during an exam, it could signify a developmental issue that needs further attention from him.

By the time they’re 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 cases like this, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early. In others, we may opt to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent other problems later on.

Overbite 

While protruding front teeth are often a cosmetic concern, the effects can go beyond that, sometimes causing pain in the jaw or interfering with a child’s normal speech patterns. Though we generally need to wait until a child’s mouth has finished growing before we can permanently correct an overbite, there are still a number of options for reducing the risk of pain and traumatic injury as they are growing. Corrective measures can also improve a younger patient’s confidence and self-esteem!

Underbite

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. Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of about 7-10 also tend to be less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older.

Posterior Crossbite

A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding, or cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood can 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.

Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites

With a deep bite, the child’s top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This sometimes indicates 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 finger or thumb sucking, or if a child uses a bottle or pacifier for too long. In cases such as these, our team is happy to work with both you and your child to help eliminate any destructive habits early on, so that dental development can continue normally.

Early evaluations and healthy smiles at Selden Orthodontics

We hope that this guide has provided you with a clearer understanding of the issues younger patients can face. It’s easy to see why early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of a child’s oral health! A visit with our team of experts around the age of seven can lead to treatment that may help prevent the need for more invasive orthodontics as an adult, and can also make any comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient.

At Selden Orthodontics, we have an expert team working hard to provide patients of all ages nothing but the highest quality orthodontic care in a friendly, welcoming, and stress-free environment. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, get in touch today to schedule a complimentary consultation!