Because so many people associate orthodontics with teens in braces, it can come as a surprise to learn that treatment can actually benefit patients of all ages. It’s never too early or too late to care about oral health! That’s why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7.
As a parent, you’re probably familiar with why regular dental visits are an important part of caring for your child’s smile, but you may not know that orthodontic examinations are another essential way to ensure a healthy and functioning mouth. The American Association of Orthodontists has recommended that all children have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of seven for this very reason!
You might find yourself a little confused by this recommendation, since seven is still pretty young and most kids that age still have developing mouths with many baby teeth left. But this is a good thing! Evaluations at this stage give us the chance to catch any potential orthodontic issues before they have the chance to become something more serious. That means we can take a “watch and wait” approach or look at age-appropriate treatment if necessary.
Here at Davis & Goldberg Orthodontics, we believe that preventive care is key to giving children the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles. Dr. Davis and Dr. Goldberg have worked with many young patients in our community, and have seen firsthand the positive impact it can have on their oral health. If you have a young child around seven years old, we’d love to arrange a consultation to meet you both so we can take a look at their dental development!
During this initial visit with us, our doctors will be checking for a number of issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is recommended, whether now or at some point in the future. Keep reading below to learn more about what they’ll be looking for!
Tooth loss and eruption
Since baby teeth eventually fall out anyway, many people underestimate their importance. But as the placeholders for our permanent teeth, where our primary teeth are located and when they come out matters more than you may think! Since they tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, any significant deviation from this pattern could signify a developmental issue that requires further attention.
By the age of seven, children should have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. In some cases, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early or we may want to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent bigger problems later on.
Crooked teeth can make it difficult for children to brush and floss them effectively. They also make the teeth more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. Misaligned teeth that are left untreated over a long enough period of time can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. While we are able to successfully align teeth at just about any age, correcting them when children are younger can help prevent some of that excessive wear and tear. This gives them a head start on a much healthier smile.
Crowding and spacing issues
An experienced orthodontist is trained to be able to assess problems with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth fairly early in a child’s life. They’re also able to tell if any issues are likely to develop later on in life. Trouble with spacing can show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced apart. If it’s crowding that’s an issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)
Cosmetic concerns aside, front teeth that obviously protrude can increase the risk of injury to the permanent teeth and cause possible speech issues as well. Although we sometimes have to wait until a child’s mouth is done (or close to it) before permanently correcting an overbite, there are still several things we can do to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury. Often this will give children an extra boost of self-esteem, too!
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward. In these types of cases, we’ll often need to wait until the patient is close to being done growing to begin their treatment, usually during the teenage years.
Even if there’s a waiting period involved in resolving an underbite, early treatment is still important in order to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. We have various methods we can use to try and normalize the bite as early as possible. This includes something called “jumping the bite,” where we use braces or other appliances to get a start on a young child’s underbite before completing treatment in their teen years. In fact, underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of 7-10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older!
A posterior crossbite can cause crowding, and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other to fit the top and bottom teeth together. When we’re able to expand the upper jaw in earlier childhood, we 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.
In some cases, a narrow upper jaw can be associated with a narrow nasal passage, and expansion can help improve breathing and nasal airflow while these patients are growing.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These bite problems occur vertically, and can usually be spotted by the time your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, which can indicate a small lower jaw.
In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This can indicate a finger, thumb, or tongue habit that is causing dental problems. If so, we’ll be happy to work with you and your child to eliminate any destructive habits early on. This will help their development to continue normally as they grow.
Start your child’s smile off right with Davis & Goldberg Orthodontics
When it comes to helping your child achieve a healthy smile, early orthodontic evaluations are one of the easiest things you can do. When a child receives the orthodontic treatment they need as a child, it can help prevent destructive bite patterns from getting worse or damaging the developing teeth. This will often reduce the need for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult. Interceptive treatment can also make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient.
Davis & Goldberg Orthodontics is proud to offer patients of all ages a rewarding orthodontic experience in Greensboro, High Point, and the surrounding communities. Our expert team is committed to providing you and your child with the highest-quality care, affordable orthodontic treatments, and world-class customer service. With no dental referral necessary, it’s never been easier to give your child the gift of a beautiful smile!
Patient safety is a top priority for us, and we utilize the most advanced systems to keep all of our patients happy and healthy, now and always. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation.