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What Age Should I First Take My Child to See an Orthodontist?

Posted on November 29, 2017

Young girl smiling with braces in class

As children begin to lose their baby teeth, you may be curious about the right time to bring them to the orthodontist for their first visit. Thankfully, at Bret Johnson Orthodontics we have a wealth of experience with first-time visitors, especially children. We are happy to help parents through this sometimes confusing and stressful time.

Making a Plan

Getting an early orthodontic screen is one of the most important reasons for children to have their first visit. We do this once permanent teeth have come in, usually around age seven. It’s a straightforward process. We look for any potential issues before they become problems; this is commonly called “interceptive treatment.” Catching problems early, while the mouth is still developing, has many benefits for your child like:

  • A picture of how your child’s permanent teeth will come in and develop
  • Recognizing bad habits like thumb sucking that can cause damage
  • Stopping future damage to protruding teeth
  • Cultivating positive self-esteem for a child by helping he or she have confidence in his or her appearance

Now, most young patients do not require corrective treatment because of their first consultation; however, one major takeaway from this first meeting is the knowledge of your child’s dental development. With this new assuredness, you’ll be aware of critical things to look for and be able to identify what is healthy and what may be abnormal. One of Dr. Bret’s chief priorities is that you, as a parent, understand the situation. We pride ourselves on doing everything we can to answer your questions at the time of consultation and beyond.

We also heavily recommend that all children have their first visit to a dentist’s office by or before age two. This visit is critical in ensuring that all baby teeth are normal, and if they aren’t, your dentist can refer you to an orthodontist if an early visit is needed. Be sure to continue regular visits to the dentist as recommended.

Regular Visits

Your first orthodontic visit is the first-step in a monitoring effort to ensure life-long health. By having regular check-ins, we can identify potential issues and fix them before they become more difficult down the line with age. Prompt treatment can help you avoid costly procedures like tooth extractions and other techniques.

You may be wondering what you should be on the look-out for between visits. Here are a few of the most common:

Irregular Bites

One of the easiest early-arising problems for parents to spot is an irregular bite. Keep an eye out for:

  • An open bite – this is where the front teeth don’t touch. Often, you’ll notice an oval-shaped gap between the top and bottom teeth.
  • An underbite – this is where the lower jaw protrudes farther forward than the upper jaw.
  • A crossbite—This is where a bottom tooth or multiple bottom teeth overlay the upper teeth.  Sometimes hard to notice, single lower molars can rest past the outside of the gums than an upper molar.

Since misalignments like these can be easier to see, they are more likely to affect a child’s self-esteem negatively. But not to worry! When caught early, an orthodontist can almost always find a solution that will remedy the situation, and as a result, a child will feel proud of his or her smile.

Crowding and Spacing

Not all tooth crowding is obvious; sometimes it’s quite incognito. While not obvious to the untrained eye, orthodontic issues such as these (referred to as malocclusions) can cause serious issues later for the mouth’s development if not addressed. Be sure to regularly check your child’s mouth for evidence of large gaps between teeth, teeth bunched together, or teeth coming in from abnormal locations.

The likelihood of periodontal disease, tooth decay, and jaw issues increase if not properly treated. Crowded and gapped teeth also can cause serious detriment to your child’s self-esteem and cause them unnecessary stress and shame. Our number one goal is to help children get a smile they can be proud of and want to show off.

If you notice any of these issues in their preliminary stages, be sure to make an appointment with your orthodontist. We can quickly diagnose issues and create a treatment plan to make interventions.

Behavior and Speech

Unhealthy habits like thumb sucking that continues past the toddler stage can result in malocclusions later in life. If you know your child still sucks his or her thumb and are concerns about problems that may result due to it, it’s advised to visit an orthodontist for advice. Problems with chewing and biting can also lead to a vast array of oral problems, or since effects vary from child to child, nothing at all.

If you notice your child developing a lisp, it can indicate an oral issue, even if your child’s teeth appear straight. If your child has a lisp, make an appointment with an orthodontist to find the source of the issue.

Don’t Dismiss Malocclusions

While malocclusions are cosmetic and don’t post a physical health risk, don’t dismiss them. The psychological ramifications of leaving a malocclusion untreated can reverberate through your child’s self-esteem. Be sure to have an honest conversation with both your child and orthodontist to map out the best path forward.

One Final Thought

Between the ages 10-15, the jaw bones haven’t taken their adult shape and are considered the “sweet spot” for most orthodontic treatments. Often, treatment during this age range can prove to be less expensive and difficult than once a child reaches adulthood. While constantly-improving techniques allow orthodontists to treat a vast age range of patients, the “sweet spot” is still the best time to receive treatment.

If your child has yet to see an orthodontist or you are looking for an orthodontist, please contact us at Bret Johnson Orthodontics in Spokane and Colville! We’d love to get your child on a path to a healthy smile he or she can be proud of! Please contact us for a free consultation or give us a call at 832.925.8721.


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