Orthodontists do more than just straighten teeth. We improve the harmony of the bite, mitigate issues associated with improper jaw alignment, and address aesthetic concerns such as facial symmetry and profile.
As an orthodontist, the most common question I am asked by patients and dental colleagues is “At what age should a child be evaluated for orthodontic treatment?”
While braces are typically associated with teens, you may be surprised to hear that even children who are still donning some baby teeth may benefit from orthodontic treatment. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends for all children to be evaluated by an orthodontist no later than age 7.
There are several reasons for this recommendation. By age 7, the permanent first molars have erupted, establishing the bite. Also around this time, the permanent front teeth begin to emerge, allowing an orthodontist to evaluate if your child has crowding, spacing, an overbite or underbite.
Additional problems such as cross-bites, deep bites, open bites, and adverse dental habits can be detected.
While the majority of children do not need any orthodontic treatment at a young age, early detection can prevent more serious problems from developing and may make subsequent orthodontic treatment shorter and less complicated.
For example, detection and treatment of a prolonged thumb-sucking habit can prevent narrowing of the upper jaw, an open bite, and excessive protrusion of the front teeth.
If a significant issue is identified during the initial examination, early interceptive (“Phase 1”) orthodontic treatment is recommended. Usually completed in less than a year, this treatment is typically done during the ages of 7-11 when children have a mixture of permanent and baby teeth. Children will then be monitored regularly and evaluated for a second phase of orthodontic treatment once all permanent teeth erupt, around age 12.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s dental alignment or bite, schedule a consultation appointment with a local orthodontist or ask your family dentist for a referral. Consultations are quick, painless, and often complimentary. A beautiful smile is right around the curve.