It’s not uncommon for people to associate orthodontics with teens in traditional braces. This is a pretty persistent stereotype, even though patients of all ages can benefit from orthodontic treatment, including children. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of 7! Because most kids this age still have some baby teeth left, as well as a developing mouth, you may wonder why we encourage a visit to the orthodontist so early. It’s all part of the preventative care approach we take to oral health here at Dream Orthodontics!
When you schedule an appointment for your young child with Dr. Morra, it will give her the chance to examine their mouth for any existing or potential orthodontic issues before they have the chance to become more serious. This helps to reduce the risk of those problems having a negative impact on your child’s future permanent teeth and bite.
We treat a number of younger patients in our practice, so we’ve had the opportunity to observe firsthand how starting treatment at the right time can make a positive difference to a child’s overall oral health. If you have a child ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to schedule a Free consultation for them so we can take a look at how their mouth is developing! To learn more about some of the things our team will be checking for during this initial evaluation, keep reading below.
Tooth loss and eruption
It’s tempting to think that baby teeth don’t really matter since they eventually fall out anyway, but these primary teeth are actually placeholders for our permanent teeth. That means where they’re located and when they are lost matters more than you might think. They also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so any significant deviation from that pattern may signify a developmental issue that could need further attention from Dr. Morra.
At this stage in their dental development, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. Any more or less than this could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. When this occurs, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early. In others, simply maintaining a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely may be sufficient to keep the neighboring teeth from crowding it.
Crowding and spacing
Spacing issues can show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced too far apart. If crowding is the problem, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth. An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Morra will generally be able to tell relatively early in a child’s life if they’re experiencing problems with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth, or if these seem like problems that may develop later on in life.
Crooked teeth have more than just a cosmetic impact. They are also more difficult to clean effectively, and more susceptible to uneven damage and wear. If left untreated, misalignment can compromise the surrounding gum tissue, affecting the shape and position of it. While we’re able to align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on this can help prevent some of that damage in children, giving them a great shot at developing and maintaining a healthy smile throughout their lives.
Overbite (protrusive front teeth)
Front teeth that protrude can be a cosmetic concern, but they may also cause pain in the jaw, and can even affect normal speech patterns, too. Although we will sometimes need to wait until your child’s mouth has finished growing before permanently correcting an overbite, there are still a number of things we can do in the meantime to help reduce the risk of pain and traumatic injury.
Most underbites we see are caused by problems with either the teeth or the jaw. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward. In a difficult case like this, we will typically need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin their treatment. This is usually somewhere in their mid- to late-teens. However, early treatment still has an important role to play here by helping patients avoid any bite-shifting or damage to the front teeth. In addition, underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of 7-10 or so are less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older.
A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding, and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood may allow us 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.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
When a child has a deep bite, the top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting, possibly indicating a small lower jaw. In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This is often caused by poor oral habits, including extended finger or thumb sucking. If this is a problem with your child, we’re happy to work with you to eliminate any destructive habits early on, allowing their oral development to continue normally.
Give your child the gift of a healthy smile with an early evaluation from Dream Orthodontics
When you know a little more about the potential issues younger patients can face, it’s easy to see why early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of maintaining your child’s oral health! Timing the key factor, since a child’s jaw bones continue to harden as they get older, and will eventually stop growing. Any orthodontic procedures needed after that point will often take more time and be more invasive, such as tooth extractions or oral surgery.
Having your young child examined by an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Morra can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult. It can even make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient! If you have a child around 7 years of age who’s ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE exam. This is the perfect time to take the first step towards your child’s best smile!