Ask people what comes to mind when they think of orthodontics, and more often than not, it will be some variation on a teenager in awkward metal braces. This stereotype is wrong on both levels, however! Today’s treatment options are more comfortable, stylish, and customizable than ever before. Not only that, but orthodontics can benefit patients of all ages, including children. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends kids have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of 7.
You may wonder why they would need to see an orthodontist so soon, especially when they still have baby teeth and developing mouths. When your child has an exam with an experienced orthodontist at an early age, it increases the chance of potential orthodontic issues being caught sooner rather than later. This can reduce the risk of them becoming much bigger problems later on in life, which helps prevent any negative impact on their future permanent teeth and bite. That’s the power of preventative care!
At Brilliant Smiles Orthodontics, our team has treated a number of younger patients, and we’ve observed firsthand how starting treatment at the right time can make a huge difference to a child’s overall oral health. If you have a child around the age of 7 who is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at how their teeth are developing! Let’s take a closer look at some of the things Dr. Chiang will be checking for during this initial evaluation.
Tooth loss and eruption
Even though baby teeth eventually fall out, they’re still important as placeholders for permanent teeth. Where they’re located and when they are lost matters more than you might think. These primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so any significant deviation from that pattern could signify a developmental issue that needs attention.
At this age, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If we observe that a child has more or less than this, it could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. In some of these cases, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early. In others, we may want to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely to prevent bigger problems later on.
Crowding and spacing
An orthodontist will usually be able to tell early on in a child’s life if they’re experiencing problems with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth, or if these problems are likely to develop later on. We may see spacing issues show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced apart. If it’s crowding that’s the issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Crooked teeth are more susceptible to uneven damage and wear. If it goes untreated for a long enough period, misalignment can compromise the surrounding gum tissue, affecting its shape and position it. While we’re able to successfully align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on this can help prevent some of that wear and tear in children. This truly gives them the best start for a lifelong healthy smile!
Overbite (protrusive front teeth)
Front teeth that protrude can be a cosmetic concern, but may also cause pain in the jaw and contribute to speech difficulties as well. We aren’t always able to permanently correct an overbite until your child’s mouth has finished growing, but there are still several things we can do to help reduce the risk of pain, and traumatic injury, and improve the overbite in ways that help a child feel more confident and self-assured.
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward. In a case like that, we’ll typically need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin their treatment, around the age of 16 or so. Even if there’s a waiting period involved, early treatment is still important in order to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of about 7-10 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
In bites that are too deep, the top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting, which may indicate a small lower jaw. In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. These can be caused by poor oral habits, such as extended finger or thumb sucking, or using a bottle or pacifier for too long. If this is a problem, our team will be happy to work with you and your child to eliminate any destructive habits early on, allowing development to continue normally. Open and deep bites can usually be detected by the time your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment.
Early evaluations equal improved oral health at Brilliant Smiles Orthodontics
Early orthodontic evaluations can be an important part of giving your child the gift of a healthy smile. As children get older, the jaw bones begin to harden and will eventually stop growing. If orthodontic procedures are needed after that point, they tend to take more time and be more invasive, like tooth extractions or oral surgery.
Having your child examined by an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Chiang in early childhood can often help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult. Preventive treatment like early evaluations can also make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient!
At Brilliant Smiles Orthodontics, our team is committed to providing quality orthodontic care for patients of all ages in a friendly, stress-free environment. Your child’s smile will always be our top priority! If you’re ready to schedule your child’s first orthodontic appointment with us, get in touch today. We’d love to help you get started!