When is the right time for a child to see the orthodontist?
The American Orthodontic Association recommends an orthodontic evaluation when a child reaches the age of 7. At this time, children still have most of their primary teeth. Can anything be done as this age? As you might have guessed, not every orthodontic problem can be treated at age 7. Even if none the adult teeth have erupted, an orthodontist can still spot potential problems at this early stage.
We can identify common problems early on
Tooth eruption and loss
An orthodontist will examine your child’s existing teeth and look at dental x-rays to find the telltale signs of the most common orthodontic problems. Generally, teeth will fall out in the order in which they erupt. Irregularities in this pattern may indicate developmental issues and may require attention. The incisors (the top and bottom four front teeth) should be the first to fall out and be replaced almost immediately by their permanent counterparts. Children at this age will also gain four permanent molars usually emerging at age 6 (1st adult molars). If by age 7-8, your child does not have a majority of these permanent molars and incisors erupting, there may be signs of problems such as crowding, missing, or extra teeth. If primary teeth are removed early, typically a space maintainer is used to hold space in order to prevent crowding in the future.
Poor teeth health can cause other health problems
Issues with tooth alignment are rarely, if ever, a simple cosmetic matter. Poorly aligned teeth can wear unevenly or cause pain in the teeth themselves, sometimes radiating through the jaw or neck. They can cause headaches, and speech problems like lisps and whistles. Crooked teeth are also more susceptible to damage, such as gum recession and trauma. In addition, misaligned teeth can be more difficult to clean and can contribute to long-term dental hygiene problems. In short, there are many good reasons to identify and address alignment conditions as early as possible.
Minimally, an orthodontic screening visit can alert caregivers and parents to potential or developing orthodontic problems. Even if your family dentist doesn’t suggest an orthodontic screening visit during a regular checkup, you can still ask your dentist for a referral or recommendation. Typically, there is no cost to you to get your child an orthodontic screening.
Early Identification is Key
Parents may feel the need to wait until all the permanent teeth have erupted before bringing their child in. In orthodontics, early identification of problems can sometimes reduce or eliminate the need for a more aggressive or intensive treatment plan later on. Early intervention also maximizes the range of treatment options available to correct orthodontic problems while the child’s teeth, jaws and gums are still developing. This can often make the final results faster and give your child a beautiful smile during their pre-adolescent ages when self-image is beginning to develop.
Treatment plans to meet your needs
Every patient’s orthodontic treatment plan is tailored specifically to meet the patient’s exact needs. No two patients are the same, so no two treatment plans are identical. Typically, orthodontic treatment involves braces at some point. Most patients can expect to have braces from anywhere between 1 and 2.5 years. Impacted teeth, overbites, under-bites and the child’s rate of growth may also conspire to lengthen an orthodontic treatment plan.
In severe cases, an orthodontic treatment plan may be completed in phases, early intervention and comprehensive. This approach gives adequate time to address multiple orthodontic issues that a patient may have, often helping to avoid the need for jaw surgery.
Early orthodontic evaluation gives us the best opportunity to identify and begin treatment for severe orthodontic problems. It can also help identify the best time to begin active treatment for less severe issues. Without appropriate treatment, orthodontic problems can cause damage to the permanent teeth, pain and even self-esteem issues. They can also necessitate more invasive, extensive and expensive treatments during adulthood.
Panoramic and cephalometric x-raysDuring your orthodontic screening, we may take special x-rays not typically taken by your family dentist. The panoramic x-ray shows all of the patient’s teeth on one film, and can identifies the current position of developing teeth in a child’s mouth. The cephalometric x-rays shows the side view of the patient’s skull and displays jaws relationship as well as teeth position in relationship to the lips. It is also utilized to help determine if surgery or tooth extractions are needed. Orthodontists may use these x-rays, along with the results of their own examinations to determine whether orthodontic treatment may be necessary immediately or at some point in the future. Knowing about the need for orthodontic treatment can also help parents plan for the cost of any treatments that may not be covered fully by insurance.
The orthodontists at Angle Orthodontics can provide an orthodontic screening or consultation, and develop specific treatment recommendations for your child. Call us at (503) 252-5567 or connect with us on social media… Facebook: @AngleOrtho | Instagram: @angleorthopdx