Many people mistakenly think that orthodontic treatment is limited to tweens and teens. However, orthodontics can benefit patients of all ages, including children! In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists has recommended that all kids have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of seven. If you’ve always associated orthodontics with teens in braces, you may not be sure what to think about this recommendation. Seven is pretty young, and most children that age still have developing mouths with baby teeth left. It turns out, that’s actually the point! Keep reading to find out why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7!
An early orthodontic evaluation with Dr. Nordberg gives him the chance to examine a child’s dental development and catch any potential issues before they develop into something more serious. This kind of preventive care is really important for giving kids the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles! We treat many young patients here at Nordberg Orthodontics, and we’ve seen firsthand over the years how starting treatment at the optimal time can have a positive impact on their oral health.
If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at their smile! During this evaluation, Dr. Nordberg will check for a number of issues. This will help him determine a diagnosis if there is one, and whether treatment is recommended, either now or in the future.
Tooth loss and eruption
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of baby teeth. After all, they all fall out eventually anyway, right? But these primary teeth are placeholders for our permanent teeth and matter more than you may think. Since they tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, any significant deviation from this pattern could signify a developmental issue that requires further attention.
By the age of seven, most children will also 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 that bears watching.
Orthodontics goes beyond improving the appearance of a child’s smile. Crooked teeth can also be more difficult to brush and floss effectively, and more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If a misalignment is left untreated over a long enough period of time, it can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. Although we’re able to successfully align teeth at just about any age, correcting misalignments when a child is young can help prevent some of that excessive strain. It will also give them a head start on a healthier smile!
Crowding and spacing issues
An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Nordberg is trained to observe any problems with excessive crowding or spacing when a child is fairly young. He’ll also be able to tell if issues like this are likely to develop later on in life. 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 is the problem, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Overbite (protrusive front teeth)
Aside from the obvious cosmetic concerns, front teeth that obviously protrude can increase the risk of injury to the permanent teeth and cause possible speech issues as well. Sometimes we have to wait until a child’s mouth is done growing before permanently correcting an overbite, but there are still a number of things we can do in the meantime to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury. This often has the added benefit of increasing the child’s self-esteem!
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward. In these types of cases, we’ll often need to wait until the patient is close to being done growing to begin their treatment, usually 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. There are several things we can use to try and normalize the bite as early as possible. Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of 7-10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older.
With a posterior crossbite, a child may experience crowding as well as a shift in the jaw from one side to the other. When we’re able to expand the upper jaw in earlier childhood, we can reduce that 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. A qualified orthodontist can normally spot them 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. This often indicates that there’s a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems.
If this is the case with your child, we’ll be happy to work with you both to eliminate any bad habits early on. This will help their development to continue normally as they grow.
Give your child the best chance at a healthy smile with Nordberg Orthodontics
Early orthodontic evaluations are one of the easiest things you can do to maintain your child’s oral health. When a child receives preventive treatment at the optimal time, we’re able to help prevent destructive bite patterns from getting worse and lessen the damage to developing teeth. This can reduce the need for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult, and even if further treatment is required at some point, it often takes less time and is more efficient.
Nordberg Orthodontics is dedicated to providing our young patients with a fun and rewarding experience in our Puyallup office. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, get in touch with us! You don’t need a dental referral and the first visit is FREE, so take the first step towards your child’s best smile today.