Your Child’s First Orthodontic Appointment
Children begin losing their baby teeth around age six or seven, and most have their full set of permanent teeth (minus wisdom teeth) by age 12. The ages and speeds at which teeth and jaw development takes place varies widely from child to child, but timing is critical when considering taking your child to visit the orthodontist. Below you will find out what to expect at your child’s first orthodontic appointment.
The First Orthodontic Appointment
The American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends that children have their first orthodontic appointment at the first sign of an orthodontic issue. However, all children should visit an orthodontist no later than the age of seven years old, even if the child still has baby teeth or no signs of issues. This early appointment is to assess the development of incoming teeth and jaw growth, as well as look for subtle orthodontic issues.
The first orthodontic appointment usually results in: recommending the child return at a later age for treatment, deeming no treatment necessary, or recommending early intervention. Most children do not end up needing orthodontic intervention at such a young age, but early detection can significantly help those children that do need it.
Why is Visiting an Orthodontist Early Important?
It may seem unnecessary to take your seven-year-old child to an orthodontist, especially if you don’t notice any issues. However, there are many benefits to early orthodontic visits:
- There may be subtle issues that an orthodontist can spot early on.
- Taking care of issues early can eliminate or simplify the need for orthodontics later on.
- Some conditions can be painful or dangerous, such as bite alignments that cause the child to constantly bite his or her cheek, or protruding teeth that can cause injuries during a fall.
- Crossbites can cause the jaws to grow unevenly.
- Potential correction of damaging oral habits (i.e. finger or thumb sucking).
- Improving appearance by guiding teeth into more favorable positions.
When to Visit Orthodontist Before Seven Years of Age
You may be wondering what is considered an orthodontic issue that would warrant bringing your child to the orthodontist before they reach seven years old. The following list includes the most common occurrences that require early intervention (check out AAO’s pamphlet for images):
- Crossbites: When the top front teeth are behind bottom teeth or back top teeth are to the inside of bottom teeth.
- Protruding teeth: Front teeth jut out past bottom teeth.
- Open bite: Front teeth do not meet bottom teeth when teeth are closed.
- Crowding or spacing: Too little or too much space between teeth.
- Underbite: Bottom teeth are in front of top teeth when teeth are closed.
- Missing teeth: Or teeth that emerge in the wrong sequence.
- Other patterns to look for: Speech difficulty, sucking on fingers, thumb or pacifier, grinding or clenching teeth, or difficulty chewing or biting.
Most orthodontic issues are best left to be treated until after the child has lost all baby teeth. However, many of the problems listed above can get worse over time if not attended to early. These issues can be much easier to treat while development is still occurring.
Early treatment can involve pulling baby teeth to make way for permanent teeth, or even pulling permanent teeth to relieve excessive crowding. Another way to relieve crowding is to install a palatal expander, which increases the size of the arch, allowing for teeth to come in to more desirable positions. In some cases, an orthodontist will prescribe an orthodontic device that can adjust the position of the jaw, move teeth, or hold them in place.
Some children who receive early orthodontic treatment still require braces or other orthodontic procedures later on in adolescence, however, treatments are shorter and simpler due to early interventions.
Is your child older than seven and never been to the orthodontist? It is never too late, so be sure to schedule your first orthodontic appointment ASAP. Feel free to check out our website or contact us for more information.