“When should I schedule my child’s first orthodontic evaluation?” The simple answer: 7 years old. Now you may be thinking, “Why would a 7-year-old possibly need orthodontic treatment?” Or another question I get a lot is: “There are kids in my child’s class that are already in braces. Do they start earlier these days??”
So many dentists tell parents that their children do not need to see an orthodontist until all the adult teeth are in, yet, Johnny’s friends are all in braces at school. What gives?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that your child has their first evaluation by an orthodontist by the age of 7. Now, let me clarify that an orthodontic evaluation does not mean treatment will be immediately necessary. Treatment is uncommon at such an early age, but better to be proactive than reactive. We can simply identify a handful of orthodontic problems that are much easier to address at an early stage. Missing that window of opportunity poses the threat of longer, more complicated treatments when discovered at an older age.
So what types of things am I looking for at age 7?
The orthodontist is usually the first dentist to take a panoramic image of your child’s teeth. The regular dentist will take “bitewings” a zoomed in view of the tops of the teeth that checks for cavities. A panoramic image shows all the teeth, the baby teeth and the adult teeth underneath them. That means that we are the first to spot any severe crowding issues, a missing adult tooth, or an adult tooth that is starting to erupt horizontally instead of vertically. (we call this an impaction). None of those things would be visible on a bitewing as seen below:
We are also able to look at your child’s jaw development to see if an under or overbite is starting to develop. We also look for open bites, which are common in children who had thumb-sucking habits or used a pacifier for a long time. These habits cause the front teeth to not touch the bottom teeth even when your child is biting down.
The last thing that I will evaluate in a young patient is their airway. Does your child snore? Breathe through their mouth? Wet the bed? Have night terrors? Believe it or not, all these issues can be very intertwined with your child’s jaw development and improving a problem in this area early can truly change a child’s life. So many children are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD that really just have narrow jaws and breathing problems which leads to poor sleep and therefore behavioral issues.
I think you’ll see that there is a lot of information about your child’s teeth, jaws and overall health that can be evaluated at an orthodontic evaluation. It also lets you know what to expect in the future.
Consultations are complimentary! Schedule your child’s early evaluation today. We look forward to meeting you!