When we think of orthodontics, one of the most common images associated with the term is that of teens in braces. However, orthodontic treatment can benefit patients of all ages, including children. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of seven. That’s why we’re taking a look at why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7.
Some parents are confused by this recommendation, since seven seems so young. After all, most kids this age still developing mouths and a fair number of baby teeth left. But catching them early is actually the point—this allows us to catch any potential orthodontic issues early, before they’re able to develop into something bigger. This can help give children the best chance for a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Here at Windy City Orthodontics, we’re big believers in the power of preventive care. Our practice treats a number of young patients, and we’ve seen up close and personal how starting treatment at the right time can make a positive difference to their oral health. If you have a child ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we would love to meet you both and take a look at their dental development. Dr. Pakravan will check for a number of issues during this exam to determine if orthodontic treatment is indicated.
To learn more about what he’ll be looking for, keep reading below!
Tooth loss and eruption
Even though baby teeth eventually fall out, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important. As placeholders for our permanent teeth, where they’re located and when they come out matters more than you may think! These primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so any significant deviation from this pattern could signify a developmental issue that needs further attention from Dr. Pakravan.
By age 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 in order to prevent bigger problems later on.
Crooked teeth are harder to keep clean, and more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If left untreated over a long enough period of time, this could affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. Even though teeth can be successfully aligned at any age, correcting them when children are younger can help prevent some of the excessive wear and tear, giving them a head start on a healthier smile.
Crowding and spacing
An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Pakravan will be able to tell early on in your child’s life if they’re already experiencing problems with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth. They’ll also be able to tell if he or she is likely to develop such problems 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 crowding turns out to be an issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)
Aside from concerns about the cosmetic appearance, front teeth that obviously protrude can increase the risk of injury to the permanent teeth and cause possible speech issues as well. While we sometimes have to wait until a child’s mouth is closer to done growing before permanently correcting an overbite, there are still several things we can do to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury. Doing so can give them a boost in self-confidence, 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, and in cases like that, we’ll often need to wait until the patient is closer to finished growing to begin their treatment. This will usually be 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. 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, which may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. If this is the case, our team will be happy to work with you and your child to eliminate destructive habits early on so that development can continue normally.
Earlier evaluations lead to happier smiles with Windy City Orthodontics
Early orthodontic evaluations give your child the best chance for a healthy smile that will last a lifetime! Consider that a child’s jaw bones slow their growth in their teen years and eventually stop growing. Any orthodontic treatment performed after this point will often take more time and be more invasive. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent destructive bite patterns from getting worse or damaging the developing teeth, and reduce the need for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult. Interceptive treatment can also make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient!
At Windy City Orthodontics, your child’s smile is always a priority. We’ve created a warm, welcoming, and stress-free environment that makes you feel like family from the moment you walk in our door. Our talented team is committed to providing the highest quality orthodontic care for patients of all ages in Chicago and the surrounding area. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation. You don’t need to wait until all the permanent teeth have grown in, and no referral is necessary. This is the perfect time to take the first step towards your child’s best smile!