There is some controversy surrounding the age at which it’s deemed appropriate for a child to go see an orthodontist. Since there is some uncertainty surrounding the issue, I feel it’s best to go to the most reputable source on the matter – the American Association of Orthodontists.
Some people react strongly when they hear that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends the young age of seven for a child’s first orthodontic evaluation. There are some good reasons for this recommendation. Here are a few:
A mix of baby and adult teeth
Baby teeth (or primary teeth) have started to fall out by the age of seven, and a few adult teeth have erupted in your child’s mouth. A child’s baby teeth sometimes predict where their adult teeth will be, and a child’s baby teeth can actually be bigger than the adult teeth in rare instances. The orthodontist will look at the predicted path, and determine if there might be future problems in your child’s alignment or bite.
Sometimes all that’s needed is a space maintainer. This is a simple device used minimally that can have a huge impact on your child’s future smile. Orthodontists can also take a panoramic x-ray to see if your child is missing any adult teeth (5 percent of adults are).
That’s why it’s important to go to an orthodontist at an early age. Your orthodontist will make suggestions and these courses of action will nip any teeth issues in the bud.
Early treatment, also called phase one treatment, is most effective as a preemptive strike. The treatment will only last a year, if that, and then a future evaluation early in your child’s teen years will be determined to see if the anticipated effects have taken hold. The most common treatments are a palatal expander, braces on the front teeth, a retainer, or a combination of these.
If you choose to play the early bird, you may be able to preempt a lot of orthodontic work up ahead.
Why children might need braces
If your child is older and an orthodontist suggests braces in the early teen or ‘tween years, it might be because the orthodontist noticed one of these issues:
- Overlapping teeth: When the front and bottom teeth overlap the abutting teeth.
- Malocclusion: Technically, this is when the lower or upper jaw is bigger than its counterpart. When the upper jaw is bigger, it’s called an overbite. When it’s the lower jaw, it’s an underbite.
- Losing baby teeth: A child losing their primary teeth too soon is another reason that an early visit to the orthodontist is a great idea.
- Thumb-sucking and other bad habits: Not only will your orthodontist be able to suggest remedies for this behavior, but she or he can also check if the issue has harmed anything thus far.
- Personal choice: Maybe your child is older than seven, but their teeth have come in wonky. At that point, it may be best to help your child correct any anomalies in their smile. Having a ready smile that one feels confident about is a major asset in the tumultuous years of childhood. If your child has expressed displeasure in reference to their teeth, maybe you should consider a visit to the orthodontist.
What will happen during the visit?
When you go to see the orthodontist on that first visit, here’s what they’ll do. They’ll thoroughly examine your child’s bite and alignment. They’ll also talk to your child about their habits, to see if there are any instances of teeth-grinding or the like. They can also take x-rays and let you know if there are any looming issues.
There is a possibility that your child needs no orthodontic care. In that case, the orthodontist will invite you back in a year or two to re-evaluate.
What’s important to realize is that even if you go to the orthodontist when your child is seven, this does not mean that your child will immediately get braces. What an orthodontist can provide is knowledge, expertise, and a feeling of relief.
Per the American Association of Orthodontists recommendation, earlier is better than too late. Schedule a consultation with experts like those at Rio Vista Family Dentistry.