It’s no secret that regular dental visits are one of the easiest ways to ensure your child has a healthy smile. Every parent and caregiver knows how important check-ups and cleanings are for oral health, but did you know that orthodontic evaluations are also an essential part of caring for your child’s teeth? That’s why we recommend that your child should see an orthodontist by age 7.
Here at Oread Orthodontics, we see patients of all ages in our Topeka and Lawrence offices. Many of those are young children! You may be confused about that, especially if you’ve always associated orthodontics primarily with teens in braces. After all, kids that age still have developing mouths and most of their baby teeth. This is the point, though!
When an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Wood has the chance to evaluate a child’s mouth early on, potential issues can be diagnosed before they can develop into something more serious. That’s exactly why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of seven, and we agree! This allows us to take a “watch and wait” approach, or look at age-appropriate treatment like:
- correcting and guiding jaw growth to help the permanent teeth come in straight
- regulating the width of the upper and lower arches
- creating more space for crowded teeth
- avoiding the need for permanent tooth extractions later in life
- correcting bad oral habits and helping to improve minor speech problems
If you have a young child ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, we’d love to schedule a visit to meet you both and take a look at their dental development. During this initial appointment, Dr. Wood will be checking for several issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is recommended at any point. Keep reading to learn more about what he’ll be looking for!
Common orthodontic issues
Crooked teeth are difficult to brush and floss effectively, and they’re also more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. When left untreated over a long enough period, this can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. While it’s true that we can successfully align teeth at just about any age, correcting issues when children are younger helps prevent some of that unnecessary strain and also gives them a head start on a healthier smile.
Crowding and spacing issues
Orthodontists can usually spot cases of excessive crowding or spacing of the teeth when a child is fairly young. Trouble with spacing can 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 an issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Tooth loss and eruption
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of baby teeth, especially when you consider that they all fall out eventually anyway. But these primary teeth are the placeholders for our permanent teeth, so where they’re located and when they come out matters more than you might think. Because they tend to fall out in a fairly specific pattern, any significant deviation from that could signify a developmental issue that requires further attention from an orthodontist like Dr. Wood.
By the age of seven, children should have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. In some cases, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early or we may want to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely to prevent bigger problems later on.
Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)
Aside from any obvious cosmetic concerns, front teeth that noticeably protrude can increase the risk of injury to the permanent teeth and cause possible speech issues as well. Although we sometimes have to wait until a child’s mouth is done growing before permanently correcting an overbite, there are still several things we can do to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury. This can often boost a child’s self-esteem, too!
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 these types of cases, we’ll often need to wait until the patient is close to being done growing to begin their treatment, usually during the teenage years.
Even if there’s a waiting period involved in resolving an underbite, early treatment is still important in order to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. We have various methods we can use to try and normalize the bite as early as possible. This includes something called “jumping the bite,” where we use braces or other appliances to get a start on a young child’s underbite before completing treatment in their teen years. Research has shown that underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of 7-10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older.
A posterior crossbite can cause crowding, and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other to fit the top and bottom teeth together. When we’re able to expand the upper jaw in earlier childhood, we can 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.
In some cases, a narrow upper jaw can be associated with a narrow nasal passage, and expansion can help improve breathing and nasal airflow while these patients are growing.
Anterior open bites and deep bites
These bite problems occur vertically, and can usually be spotted by the time your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, which can indicate a small lower jaw.
In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This can indicate that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. If that’s the case for your child, we’ll be happy to work with you both to eliminate any destructive habits early on so their development can continue normally.
Give your child the gift of a healthy smile with Oread Orthodontics
Like regular checkups with the dentist, early orthodontic evaluations are one of the best things you can do to help your child achieve and maintain a healthy smile. When we’re able to provide preventive care, destructive bite patterns can be prevented from getting worse and damaging the developing teeth. In many cases, this also reduces the need for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult. And even if further treatment is required at a later date, it often takes less time and is more efficient!
Here at Oread Orthodontics, we’re committed to providing our younger patients with a fun and stress-free orthodontic experience. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Wood, online or in the office. No dental referral is necessary! This is the perfect time to take the first step towards your child’s best smile.