When it comes to orthodontics, many people tend to associate the term with teens in metal braces. While this stereotype has a lot of staying power, the truth is that orthodontics can be beneficial to patients of all ages, including children. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists actually recommends that your child see an orthodontist by age 7!
Children this age usually still have some baby teeth and their mouths are still developing, so you may wonder why they would need to see an orthodontist so soon. It’s all part of a preventive approach to orthodontic care. When your child has an exam with an experienced orthodontist at an early age, it increases the chance of any existing or potential orthodontic issues being caught sooner rather than later. This will often have a positive knock-on effect. Being seen early reduces the risk of problems becoming a much bigger deal later on in life, which in turn helps prevent any negative impact on their future permanent teeth and bite.
Here at Champlain Orthodontics, we treat a number of younger patients, allowing us to observe firsthand how starting treatment at the right time can make a huge difference to a child’s overall oral health. Do 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 mouth is developing! Let’s take a look at some of the things Dr. Ryan and Dr. Eaton will be checking for during this initial evaluation.
Tooth loss and eruption
Baby teeth may eventually fall out, but as the placeholders for permanent teeth, where they’re located and when they are lost matters more than you may think. These primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order. Any significant deviation from that pattern could signify a developmental issue that needs attention.
Most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors by around this age, so if we observe any 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 in order to prevent bigger problems later on.
Crowding and spacing
An orthodontist will normally be able to tell fairly 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. Spacing issues 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 the issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Crooked teeth are harder to clean, and also more susceptible to uneven damage and wear. Misalignment that goes untreated for a long enough period of time can compromise the surrounding gum tissue, affecting the shape and position of it. While we can successfully align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on this can help prevent some of that wear and tear in children, giving them the best start for a lifelong healthy smile!
Overbite (protrusive front teeth)
Front teeth that protrude can be a cosmetic concern, but they may also cause pain in the jaw, or even contribute to speech difficulties. While we aren’t always able to permanently correct an overbite until your child’s mouth has finished growing, there are still a number of things we can do to help reduce the risk of pain and traumatic injury. We may also be able to improve the overbite in ways that will help a child feel more confident and self-assured.
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or the 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. Early treatment is still important, however, in order to avoid any bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of about 7-10 tend to be 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
With a bite that is 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 by 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, thus allowing development to continue normally.
Early evaluations = improved oral health at Champlain Orthodontics
As you can see, early orthodontic evaluations can be an important part of giving your child the gift of a healthy smile! As children get older, their jaw bones will begin to harden and eventually stop growing. If orthodontic procedures are needed after that point, they will generally take more time and be more invasive, like tooth extractions or oral surgery.
Having your young child examined by experienced orthodontists like Dr. Ryan and Dr. Eaton 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!
Champlain Orthodontics is committed to providing quality orthodontic care for patients of all ages in a friendly, stress-free environment. You can trust that 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 with us today. We’d love to help you get started with a complimentary consultation!