If you had to describe “orthodontics”, you’d probably start talking about metal braces, retainers, and tweens and teens. Since that’s the common stereotype, probably thanks to memories of metal smiles in homecoming photos, you might be surprised to know that the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children have their first orthodontic evaluation around age seven. Since most people associate orthodontics with braces and braces with teens, seven may seem a little young. Most kids still have baby teeth and developing mouths at this age, and that’s why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7.
When an experienced orthodontist like Dr. McGrogan examines a child at a younger age, they have a better chance of potential orthodontic issues early before they become more severe. This means that problems can be addressed and corrected before they’re able to have a negative impact on their future permanent teeth. We treat a lot of young patients at Shine Orthodontics, so we’re big believers in the power of preventative care! We’ve seen over and over again that starting treatment at the right time can make a positive difference in your child’s oral health.
Do you have a child around seven years of age who is ready for their first orthodontic appointment? If so, we’d love to meet you both and check for a number of issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is needed now, or may be necessary in the future. To learn more about what we’ll be looking for and why an early orthodontic evaluation is so important, keep reading below!
Tooth Loss and Eruption
Baby teeth are important placeholders for permanent teeth, even though they fall out.
The location of baby teeth and when your child loses them matters more than you might think. Since primary teeth usually fall out in a fairly specific order, and significant difference could be a sign of a developmental issue that may need our attention.
By the time they’re seven years old, 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. When this happens, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early, or we may want to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely to prevent problems later on.
Crowding and spacing
An experienced orthodontist like Dr. McGrogan will be able to tell early on in your child’s life if there are already issues with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth.
She can also tell if such problems are likely to develop later on. 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 apart. If crowding turns out to be an issue, we can correct it by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Although teeth can be successfully aligned at almost any age – over a quarter of current orthodontic patients are over the age of eighteen! – straightening crooked teeth early gives your child a head start on a healthy smile. Crooked teeth are more susceptible to uneven damage and wear, and if they are left untreated over a long enough period of time, it can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue by compromising it.
Overbite (protrusive front teeth)
While a child’s cosmetic appearance may be the most obvious concern with protruding front teeth, they can also cause pain in the jaw along with possible speech issues. While we aren’t always able to permanently correct an overbite until your child’s mouth has finished growing, there are still quite a few things we can do to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury. This can make things easier for children psychosocially as well!
Problems with either the teeth or jaws can cause underbites. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward, and if this occurs, we’ll typically need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin their treatment. This will normally be by about age 16 or so. Early treatment is still important even if we do need to wait until your child has finished developing. There are several methods we can use to try to normalize the bite as early as possible to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. This includes something called “jumping the bite,” where we use braces or appliances to get a start on a young child’s underbite before completing treatment in their teen years. Underbite patients who receive early treatment (between the ages of 7-10) are much less likely to need corrective 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. When we can expand the upper jaw in 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.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These are bite problems that happen vertically and we can usually catch them by the time your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment. If the bite is too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when your child bites. This can indicate a small lower jaw. In an open bit, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. If this is the case, we’ll be happy to work with your and your child to get rid of any destructive habits early on so their development can continue normally.
Early evaluations result in healthier smiles with Shine Orthodontics
Early orthodontic evaluations give your child the best chance for a healthy smile that will last a lifetime! The jaw bones begin to harden in a child’s teen years and will eventually stop growing. Any orthodontic procedures performed after this point, such as tooth extractions or oral surgery, will often take more time and be more invasive. If a child receives early orthodontic care, it can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, reducing the need for further treatment. Interceptive treatment like early evaluations can make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more effective.
At Shine Orthodontics, your child’s smile will be our number one priority. We’ve created a friendly environment that will make you feel welcome and at-home from the moment your family walks in our door, and we do our best to provide a positive, stress-free orthodontic experience. Our talented team is known for offering the highest quality orthodontic care for patients of all ages in Holly Springs and the surrounding communities. If you’re ready to schedule your child’s first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today and take the first step towards a beautiful, healthy smile!