When we think about cosmetic dentistry and orthodontics, we tend to picture older children and teens. Would it surprise you to know that the American Association of Orthodontists actually recommends scheduling a check-up with an orthodontist when your child is around age 7? This might sound young to you; after all, kids that age still have baby teeth, and their teeth and mouths are still developing.
So what are the benefits to seeing a licensed orthodontist at this age? Let’s discuss!
An ounce of prevention
The short answer is that sometimes children may have underlying structural problems with their jaw or incoming teeth that aren’t apparent at first glance. The keen eye of an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Dudley, along with X-rays, can help spot and identify potential developmental issues before they have the chance to turn into something more serious. By having your child evaluated at 7, you could be saving them from facing far more invasive and expensive treatment later in life.
Even if it turns out there’s no need for early intervention treatment, this initial evaluation can provide you with an outline of what to expect for your child between the ages of 8-18 or so, such as whether or not you should start saving up for future braces!
The great news is that Dudley Smiles will provide a complimentary initial consultation for your child, so you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by following the advice of the American Association of Orthodontists.
What orthodontists will be looking for
Since an orthodontist is a specialty dentist who deals with various teeth-based problems, they’ll be looking for indications of several issues, such as:
Crowding and Spacing
This is the most common dental problem found in children. For example, when a baby tooth is lost prematurely, spacing and crowding issues can arise when a new tooth comes in. This can also happen with teeth that have never developed, or teeth that are too small or spaced too far apart.
Improper spacing can lead to future cavity formation, and crowding might require expanding the arches or removing teeth to improve the situation.
Tooth loss and Eruption
In children, baby teeth usually start to fall out at similar ages, and in a fairly specific order. By the age of 7, your child should have at least four permanent molars and two to four permanent incisors. If there’s any significant deviation from this pattern, there could be developmental issues that need attention.
There may be potential problems with missing, crowded, or extra teeth, and sometimes, this deviation may lead to premature tooth loss and eruption. Orthodontists can usually correct this problem by maintaining the space between teeth with a bridge or arch. Sometimes removing a primary tooth early on or maintaining a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely can prevent bigger issues later on.
The alignment of teeth – or rather, the misalignment – can be a major problem in children and young adults. The crowding and spacing of teeth can cause your child to develop crooked teeth and overlaying gum issues in the future.
Although teeth can be aligned in the future at an older age, crooked teeth are more susceptible to uneven damage and wear, and the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue can even wind up compromised. Correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age can also improve your child’s self-esteem.
Underbites can be caused by teeth or jaw problems. The most difficult scenario an orthodontist faces with underbites is when the patient’s lower jaw grows too far forward. Even though we’ll typically have to wait until the patient has finished growing to complete their treatment, early detection is important in these situations.
We want to try and normalize this bite as much as possible, as early as we can, to avoid
“bite-shifting” and damage to the front teeth. If we notice an underbite in a young patient, we will often try to “jump the bite” with braces or a headgear in an attempt to get a handle on it before completing the treatment in their teen years.
Note: underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of 7 and 10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery at an older age. That’s one compelling reason to make sure your child visits an orthodontist at age 7!
Usually, children with posterior crossbites problems face issues like crowding and the jaw shifting side to side. To reduce the effects of this, orthodontists can expand the upper jaw around the ages of 7-10 to reduce crowding and create necessary space for the eruption of the front teeth. Treatment for a posterior crossbite at an early age can also help eliminate any shifting that might be present.
Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)
By age 7, it will usually be obvious if a child’s front teeth stick out instead of staying within the jaw line. Though we’re not always able to permanently correct an overbite before your child’s mouth has finished growing, we can help reduce the severity of the problem, making things easier for them until growth is complete.
Anterior open bites and deep bites
It’s possible to detect vertical problems with the bite as early as age 7.
Bites that are too deep – where the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting – can indicate that the patient has a small lower jaw.
Open bites – bites that don’t overlap enough – can often be a sign that there’s a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. In that case, we’ll encourage our patients to eliminate those destructive habits early so that normal development takes over.
Early orthodontic evaluations with Dudley Smiles
We’ve outlined several reasons why early orthodontic evaluations are so important in giving your child the best chance for a healthy, beautiful smile!
Another consideration is that receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent their need for orthodontics as an adult, by reducing the need for extraction or surgery in the future. Most children lose all their baby teeth by the age of 13. This means that by the end of their teens, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing. Orthodontic procedures for adults are often more time-consuming, and can involve more invasive procedures like tooth extraction or oral surgery.
Although some treatments do have to wait until all the permanent teeth are in, early treatment can make overall treatment faster and better. It can also give your child the benefit of an additional three to four years of having a great smile at an age when they’re beginning to become more self-aware and self-conscious.
Early evaluations aren’t the only important consideration, however!
You want to be sure you choose a highly trained and experienced orthodontist like Dr. Dudley. Dudley Smiles also boasts a dedicated team that go out of their way to make each appointment as fun and friendly as possible. If you have a child in Issaquah or Kent around the age of 7, get in touch with one of our two conveniently located offices to schedule a complimentary consultation. We look forward to introducing you to your child’s best smile!