When is the best time for a child to see an orthodontist? Well, if you ask a lot of kids, the answer is “never!”
As much as we love what we do, we know that a lot of kids aren’t thrilled by the prospect of getting braces. That’s why we like to wait until kids are emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibility. The fact is, most orthodontic problems can be treated in one phase in early adolescence, once all the baby teeth have fallen out and the permanent teeth have taken their rightful place in the mouth. However, there are a handful of problems that might require some non-invasive preventive measures. In more extreme cases, some interventional treatment may even be required for a limited amount of time. Because of this, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends children see an orthodontist well before all of the baby teeth have fallen out.
Here are the top 5 reasons your child needs to see an orthodontist by age 7:
1. We make sure that the permanent teeth are developing normally
By age seven, a number of important dental milestones have happened for most kids. Their 1st permanent molars have usually come in behind the baby teeth, and serve as a foundation for the bite. Also, the baby front teeth have usually fallen out, and have been replaced by the permanent incisors. Because these permanent incisors are much larger than their primary predecessors, many kids have some degree of crowding, or crookedness of their teeth at this stage.
Sometimes permanent incisors don’t come in where and when they are supposed to, and can get stuck in the jaws. Usually this is due to the presence of an extra tooth that is blocking the eruption of the permanent tooth into the mouth. It is crucial to detect such a problem at this stage to take the necessary steps to avoid impaction or loss of these very important teeth.
We can also see the remaining developing teeth on a routine x-ray that is part of every orthodontic consult. We make sure that all the remaining canine (eye teeth) and premolar teeth are present and developing in the right spot. Some children have anomalies in the development of these teeth (especially the canines!), and detecting the problem at this stage can prevent tooth loss and other complications down the road.
2. Overall growth and development can be monitored
We like to assess the overall stage of development, as well as the growth pattern of the jaws by age 7. By assessing a child’s overall stage of development, we can determine when future dental milestones will occur, such as the loss of the rest of their baby teeth.
The growth pattern of the jaws is becoming clear at this age. Many kids have developing overbites, where the top teeth stick out too far, or underbites, where the bottom teeth bite in front of the top teeth. The cause can be jaw-related or tooth-related. For some kids, the best time to correct these issues is at this early stage of development to avoid things like permanent tooth extractions and jaw surgery down the road. Since every child is different, it’s best to see an orthodontist by age 7 to discuss what the best treatment plan for your child is!
3. Kids (and their teeth!) can handle limited orthodontic work
By age, 7, most kids are at a level of emotional maturity where they can handle some limited orthodontic treatment. Usually, this consists of a few braces, a removable retainer, or an appliance to be worn when sleeping. Most kids can handle these things without any problem at all. They usually get a kick of the tools we use, and are excited to be the first of their friends to get braces. We love to work with children at this age!
In addition, since some of the permanent teeth have erupted, the teeth are ready for things like limited braces, removable and fixed appliances, and retainers. Baby teeth on their own typically aren’t strong enough to support these devices.
4. It can prevent jaw surgery and permanent tooth removal later on
In today’s world, most kids can get an awesome smile without having to remove permanent teeth or undergo jaw surgery. However, in extreme cases, it’s still sometimes necessary. These children often have issues with the development of their teeth that can lead to severe crowding, tooth impaction, and sometimes even tooth loss.
The good news is that in many cases these problems can be avoided completely by seeing an orthodontist at age 7! Treatments that are typically done at this age include the removal of select baby teeth to help the developing permanent teeth come in in the right spot, limited braces to correct minor crowding and spacing, and expansion to make room for erupting teeth if space is tight, or if there are problems with the bite. Typically, treatment lasts no more than one year, and kids will get a retainer to wear until they are ready for a full set of braces as a teen.
5. Snoring and breathing issues are related to jaw development
This is a huge topic that deserves its own blog post (soon!), but I think it’s important to touch on here. Many kids have issues with breathing and snoring. The prevalence of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is on the rise.The fact is, there are many factors that contribute to a child’s airway and breathing. Small, constricted jaws can contribute to the problem. This is especially true when the child is asleep, and good quality sleep is essential to a child’s cognitive development. If a child’s upper jaw is narrow and constricted, expansion at this age has been shown to increase nasal airflow and improve breathing. It’s a simple treatment that can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Correction of a constricted upper jaw at this age also helps with the proper eruption of permanent teeth, and sets the stage for optimal dental development moving forward.
So, it’s clear to see why it’s so important for a child to see an orthodontist by age 7! Most kids don’t need any active treatment, but for the ones that do, the benefits are huge. As always, consultations at Paradigm Orthodontics are completely FREE, so if you have a child who is 7 or older, please give us a call at 902-406-2406 to book an appointment, or visit us online at www.paradigmsmile.com.