While orthodontic treatment most often begins between the ages of 9 and 14, some children’s orthodontic problems can benefit from earlier treatment. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends all children be seen by an orthodontist for an initial evaluation by age 7. This does NOT mean all seven year olds will need braces. At this age, primary (baby) teeth are being replaced by permanent teeth and it’s a good time to start tracking jaw growth. Putting off a check-up with an orthodontist until a child has lost all baby teeth could be a disservice. Some orthodontic problems may be easier to correct if they’re found early. If early treatment is in order, Dr. Bret may be able to achieve results that may not be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing.
By getting regular dental growth check-ups with Dr. Bret, we can determine the best time to begin treatment if it is necessary.
Benefits of Early Treatment:
- Guide jaw growth and correct unfavorable growth patterns of your child’s jaw to address bite problems such as an underbite or open bite
- Guide permanent teeth into a more favorable position
- Regulate the width of the upper and lower arches
- Create more space for crowded teeth that may not emerge on their own
- Avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions in the future
- Correct thumb sucking or other habits and help improve minor speech problems
- Improve appearance and self-esteem
- Lower the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
- Evaluate and improve airway for children with snoring or pediatric obstructive sleep apnea
Signs that your child may need early orthodontic treatment:
It’s not always easy to tell when your child has an orthodontic problem. Even teeth that look straight may be hiding an unhealthy bite. Here are some clues you can look for that may indicate the need for orthodontic attention:
- Crowded front teeth around age 7 or 8
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Difficulty chewing and/or biting food
- Mouth breathing, grinding or snoring problems
- Your child continues to suck his or her thumb after age 4
- Speech impediments
- Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
- Upper and lower teeth that don’t meet
- Misplaced or blocked out teeth
- Jaws and teeth that are not proportionate to the rest of the face
- Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner
What causes orthodontic problems, and how will early prevention benefit my child?
Orthodontic problems such as crowding of the teeth, too much space between the teeth, jaw growth problems, protruding teeth, and bad bites can be inherited or caused by injury to the mouth, early or late loss of baby teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.
Most children lose all their baby teeth around age 12, and by the end of their teen years, the growth of the jaw bones is complete. Orthodontic procedures for adults often take more time and can involve tooth extractions or oral surgery. Addressing orthodontic problems as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, and minimizes the need for extractions or surgery in the future.
If your child is 7 years of age and is showing any of the signs listed above, or you have been referred by your family to see the orthodontist, please contact our practice and schedule a complimentary consultation. Our friendly team will review your child’s case and discuss with you what is necessary to help care for your child’s smile.
If you’d like to schedule your child for an initial exam with Dr. Bret, please click here!