Parents are often the first to recognize a problem with their child’s teeth and jaws. In fact, we see quite a number of parents who bring their children to us after noticing overcrowding, overbites or gaps on their child’s teeth.
Though most people think that it’s best to have the first orthodontic visit when all of the permanent teeth are in (typically between the age 12 to 14), there are plenty of reasons why you should bring your child to an orthodontist much sooner.
Bring your child to an orthodontist no later than age 7
Your dentist may refer your child to an orthodontist if they see some issues on your child’s bite. However, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends an evaluation with an orthodontist no later than age 7.
At this age when some of your child’s baby teeth are still present, the orthodontist can spot certain issues with emerging teeth and jaw development like crossbite, underbite, crowding or protrusion.
What happens on my child’s first orthodontic checkup?
The first checkup does not always mean that your child will need braces or other treatment right away. Your orthodontist will do a thorough examination of your child’s mouth, teeth and jaw. He or she may also take an X-ray to get an in-depth assessment of how your child’s teeth are positioned.
The three general outcomes of the first checkup are:
- Your child’s teeth and bite are okay, and no treatment is needed.
- Possible treatment may be required in the future, and the orthodontist will need to periodically monitor the growth of your child’s mouth and jaws.
- There is an existing problem that is best treated with early intervention.
What are the benefits of early orthodontic treatment?
Certain dental problems can be addressed much efficiently at a younger age. With early treatment, the orthodontist will be able to get optimum results that may not be possible once the mouth and jaws have stopped growing. Treatments may also be completed faster than when addressed at a later time.
Early treatment allows your orthodontist to:
- guide your child’s jaw growth
- lower the risk of trauma to protruded teeth
- correct harmful oral habits such as tongue thrusting or mouth breathing
- improve the appearance of your child’s teeth and smile
- guide the permanent teeth into a more ideal position
- improve the way the lips meet
- prevent complex problems from developing in the future
Every child is different and will require a treatment that is tailored to his or her needs. The orthodontist will give you and your child the best treatment at the most appropriate time.