Families have a lot on their plates these days, but even with the hustle and bustle, most parents still make sure that everyone is brushing their teeth twice a day and seeing the dentist regularly. While it’s no secret how important dental care is, not everyone is aware of how orthodontic care can influence your oral health and your overall health. And although many people associate orthodontics with tweens and teens, the American Association of Orthodontists actually recommends children have their first orthodontic evaluation by around seven years old. This can be surprising since children this age still have their baby teeth and a developing mouth, but that’s exactly why it’s an ideal time to introduce the idea of orthodontic care!
Early treatment allows us to provide preventative care to young children, which is beneficial in many ways. By having an experienced orthodontists like Dr. Ross thoroughly examine a child’s mouth, potential issues can be diagnosed and corrected before they have the chance to become more serious. This helps to reduce or eliminate any negative impact on their future permanent teeth, and on their developing jaws as well.
David Ross Orthodontics treats many young patients, and our team has seen firsthand how getting a head start on orthodontic problems can make a positive difference to a child’s oral health as they grow. Do you have a child in this age range? We’d love to meet them! At their FREE initial examination, Dr. Ross will be looking for several things to indicate a possible need for orthodontic treatment. To learn more about what he’ll be checking for, and what you can expect from this first visit, keep reading below!
Tooth loss and eruption
Even though baby teeth aren’t permanent, they’re placeholders for adult teeth, which makes them important in more ways than one. Dr. Ross will pay attention to the transition that occurs as your child moves from primary to permanent teeth, including where the teeth are located and when they are lost. Because baby teeth tend to fall out in a fairly predictable pattern, any noticeable deviation from it can be a sign of developmental issues that need attention.
Children around seven years old will usually 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 potential problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth at some point in the future. We will sometimes remove a primary tooth early or maintain the space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to help to prevent bigger problems later on.
Crowding and spacing
If your child is old enough for their first orthodontic visit, they will generally be at a point where Dr. Ross can assess any excessive crowding or spacing issues, now or in the future. Spacing issues sometimes appear when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or even with teeth that are too small or spaced too far apart. If crowded teeth are a problem, we are often able to address it by expanding the arches or removing teeth to create more room if needed.
Teeth that are crooked are more susceptible to damage and wear. This can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue over time, especially when issues are left untreated. By correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age, we can help prevent any excessive wear and tear, and keep your child’s gums from being compromised.
Overbite (protrusive front teeth)
Front teeth that are obviously protruding can cause not only cosmetic issues, but pain in the jaw area and sometimes even speech issues. Occasionally, we may need to wait until a child’s mouth has finished growing before attempting to permanently correct it, but we can often help reduce the severity of the problem in the meantime.
Most underbites occur due to problems with the teeth or jaw. In more severe cases, the lower jaw may grow too far forward. As with overbites, we may sometimes need to wait until your child has finished growing to introduce treatment, but even when a waiting period is involved, it’s important to normalize the bite as much as we can, as early as we can.
If your young child has an underbite, there is a treatment option available we call “jumping the bite.” By using braces or headgear, we can get a handle on the situation before completing treatment in their teenage years. Children 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.
Posterior crossbites can cause crowding in your child’s mouth. They may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. If we happen to catch this issue early on, usually around 7-10 years of age, we sometimes have the option to expand the upper jaw. This can reduce crowding, and open up space for the front teeth to erupt properly. Expansion may also eliminate any shifting that’s present due to a constricted upper jaw.
Anterior open bites and deep bites
These vertical bite problems can normally be spotted 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 are often caused by an extended finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. Whatever the underlying issue, we’ll be happy to work with you and your child to eliminate bad habits early on, allowing normal development to resume.
The first step to a lasting straight smile with David Ross Orthodontics
An early orthodontic evaluation is the very first step in giving your child the best chance for a beautifully aligned, fully functional smile! Delaying an orthodontic evaluation and missing the chance for preventative treatment can also lead to more serious problems and more intensive treatment later in life for your child. Orthodontic procedures that are performed after your child’s jaw bones harden and stop growing tends to be more extensive, and it can sometimes involve treatments like tooth extraction or oral surgery.