When it comes to the term “orthodontics,” the image of a teen in traditional metal braces tends to be the most persistent image associated with it. That’s one reason it can come as such a surprise to learn that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a child have their first orthodontic evaluation around the age of seven. Because we associate orthodontics with braces, and braces with teens, seven can seem really young. After all, at this age, most kids still have baby teeth and developing mouths. But it turns out, that’s actually the point!
An initial exam by an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Glass can catch any potential orthodontic issues early, before they have a chance to become bigger problems. This gives us the chance to help prevent any negative impact on their future permanent teeth. Here at Glass Orthodontics, we’re big believers in preventive care! We treat a number of young patients here, and have seen time and again that starting treatment at the right time can truly make a positive difference to their overall oral health. If you have a child ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we would love to meet them and check for a number of issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is indicated. Keep reading below to learn more about what we’ll be looking for!
Tooth Loss and Eruption
Baby teeth may fall out, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Because they’re the placeholders for permanent teeth, where they’re located and when they come out matters more than you might imagine. These primary teeth tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so any significant deviation from this pattern could signify a developmental issue that needs attention.
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.
Crowding and spacing
An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Glass should 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.
Did you know that teeth can be successfully aligned at almost any age? As a matter of fact, over a quarter of current orthodontic patients are over the age of eighteen. Crooked teeth are more susceptible to uneven damage and wear, and over a long enough period of time, this can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue by compromising it. Correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age can help prevent some of this excessive wear and tear, giving your child a head start on a healthier smile.
Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)
Aside from concerns about the cosmetic appearance, front teeth that obviously protrude can cause pain in the jaw and possible speech issues as well. We aren’t always able to permanently correct an overbite until your child’s mouth has finished growing, but there are still several things we can do to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury. Doing so tends to make things easier for them psychosocially.
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 typically need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin their treatment. This will usually be by age 16 or so. But even if there’s a waiting period involved, 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 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. 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.
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.
Early evaluations lead to healthier smiles with Glass Orthodontics
As you can see, early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of giving your child the best chance for a healthy smile that will last a lifetime. Throughout a child’s teen years, the jaw bones begin to harden and will eventually stop growing. Any orthodontic procedures performed after this point will often take more time and be more invasive, such as tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, reducing the need for further treatment. Interceptive treatment like early evaluations can make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and better!
At Glass Orthodontics, your smile is our number one priority. We work hard to create a friendly, 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 Atmore, Daphne, Bay Minette, and the surrounding communities. If you’re ready to schedule your child’s first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today and we’ll help you take the first step towards a beautiful, healthy smile for them!