Parents these days have more to remember and keep track of than ever before. You’ve got a packed planner with everything from permission slips that need signing to playdates that need arranging…and that’s on top of making sure your child is meeting all their milestones! It can be hard to juggle everything on your plate, but you probably still find time to make dental hygiene a regular part of your family’s daily routine. Most parents understand how important dental care is for their children, and make sure everyone is brushing their teeth before bed and seeing the dentist regularly.
What you may not know is that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a child have their first orthodontic evaluation by around seven years old. If you tend to associate orthodontics with tweens and teens, this can be surprising! But because children this age still have their baby teeth and a developing mouth, it’s actually an ideal time to introduce orthodontic care.
The preventative care we’re able to provide to young children is beneficial in many ways. By having an experienced orthodontist examine your child, potential issues can be caught before they have the chance to become more serious. This can help prevent any negative impact on their future permanent teeth, and their developing jaws as well. Here at Booth Orthodontics, we see many patients from childhood all the way through adolescence, and know firsthand how diagnosing and treating issues early can make a positive difference to their overall oral health as they grow.
We strongly agree with the AAO’s recommendation to schedule your child’s first orthodontic evaluation by around seven years old. When you schedule a free consultation for them with Booth Orthodontics, there are several things our doctors will be looking for as they perform a comprehensive exam. Keep reading below to learn more about what to expect!
Tooth loss and eruption
The transition that happens as your child moves from primary to adult teeth is an important one. The baby teeth are placeholders for the permanent ones, and our doctors will take careful note of where they are located and when they are lost. Because baby teeth tend to fall out in a fairly regular pattern, any significant deviation from this pattern can be a sign of developmental issues needing attention.
By seven years old, most children will have at least four permanent molars, and two to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it may indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth at some point in the future. Removing a primary tooth early on, or maintaining the space where a tooth has been lost prematurely, can sometimes help to prevent bigger issues later on.
Crowding and spacing
Our doctors will generally be able to tell early on in your child’s life if they already have or are likely to have problems in the future with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth. Spacing issues may appear when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or even with teeth that are just too small or spaced too far apart. When crowded teeth are the main issue, we can often expand the arches or remove teeth to create more room as needed.
Crooked teeth are more susceptible to damage and wear. This can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue over time, particularly if there are issues that are left untreated. By correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age, we’re able to help prevent excessive wear and tear and keep the gums from being compromised. Correcting misalignments early can often have the added benefit of improving your child’s self-esteem and giving them a more positive self-image at a critical time!
Overbite or protrusive front teeth
Front teeth that obviously protrude can cause cosmetic issues, pain in the jaw, and sometimes even speech issues. If your child has an overbite, we may need to wait until their mouth is finished growing before attempting to permanently correct it, but we can often help reduce the severity of the problem in the meantime.
Most underbites are due to problems with the teeth or jaw. In more severe cases, the lower jaw may grow too far forward. As with overbites, we will sometimes need to wait until your child has finished growing to finish their treatment for an underbite. This phase of growth will usually reach completion by around the age of sixteen. Even when a waiting period is involved, early treatment remains incredibly important. To avoid issues like bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth, we will make an effort to normalize the bite as much as possible, as early as possible.
If we do notice an underbite in your young child, we have a treatment option referred to as “jumping the bite.” Using braces or headgear, this allows us to get a handle on the situation before completing treatment in their teenage years. Patients who are treated for an underbite between the ages of about 7-10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery when they are older, proof that early treatment can reduce the risk for more invasive treatment later!
Posterior crossbites can cause crowding in your child’s mouth, and can also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. When this is caught early, we sometimes have the option to expand the upper jaw at around 7-10 years of age. This can reduce crowding, creating the space necessary for the front teeth to erupt. Expansion may also eliminate any shifting that’s present due to a constricted upper jaw.
Anterior open bites and deep bites
These vertical problems with the bite can normally be spotted by an experienced orthodontist by the time your child is around 7 years old. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This can point towards a small lower jaw. Open bites often don’t overlap enough, and may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. Whatever the underlying issue, our doctors will work with both you and your child to eliminate these kind of destructive habits early on, allowing normal development to continue.
Give your child the gift of a beautiful smile with Booth Orthodontics
Early orthodontic evaluations give your child the best chance for a healthy, aligned smile, and they also help identify and correct problems that could end up costing you more time, money, and effort in the long run. Missing out on an early evaluation and the chance for preventative treatment can also lead to more painful treatment later in life for your child. Any orthodontic procedures performed after your child’s jaw bones harden and stop growing tend to be more intensive, and can sometimes involve more serious treatment like tooth extraction or oral surgery.
At Booth Orthodontics, our talented team are dedicated to providing every patient with top-quality care in a comfortable, relaxed environment. If you’re in the Homer Glen or any of the surrounding communities, and have a child ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, give us a call or click here to schedule a complimentary consultation. Give your child the best start to a beautifully aligned smile by getting in touch with us today!