Seeing an orthodontist for the first time used to be a rite of passage for preteens, but times have changed! Now, it’s recommended that children begin seeing the orthodontist much earlier. Why are early visits important? When should my child see an orthodontist? We answer these questions and more in the blog post below.
The Right Age for a First Orthodontic Visit
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children visit an orthodontist for an initial evaluation around the age of 7. There are, however, reasons we might recommend seeing an orthodontist even earlier. These include:
- Losing baby teeth earlier or later than expected
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Abnormal wear on the teeth
- Difficulty biting and chewing
- Mouth breathing
- Thumb sucking or pacifier habit beyond the age of 4
- Crowded teeth
- Speech problems
- Tongue thrust
- Visible bite or jaw issues
If your child has any of these symptoms, their dentist may refer them to our office before the age of 7. Otherwise, around their 7th birthday, you should begin thinking about making that first orthodontic appointment.
What Happens During an Orthodontic Evaluation
The age of 7 is recommended because around this time, the permanent front teeth and the first set of permanent molars have either erupted or are starting to erupt. These two sets of teeth allow us to predict how your child’s bite will develop over time. During this evaluation, we’ll also check to make sure all of the adult teeth will erupt properly.
We will look at the size and location of the jaw bones, evaluate your child’s facial proportions, and the positions of their teeth. Our team will also take photographs, imaging, and impressions to examine the teeth, jaw, and facial structures. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll get to know you and your child, and answer any questions you might have. We want you to feel comfortable and welcome at our practice!
Beginning Orthodontic Treatment
Not all children need to begin orthodontic treatment at the age of 7—in fact, most do not. If your child doesn’t, we may ask that you follow up with us on an annual basis so we can monitor their development.
When children do need orthodontics between the ages of 7 and 10, it’s called early orthodontics, interceptive orthodontics, or phase one orthodontics. Some common treatment options at this age include palatal expanders, space maintainers, and habit appliances.
The goal of these treatments is to prevent orthodontic problems from occurring by influencing the jaw as it develops, rather than waiting for problems to form and then correcting them. Often, this means your child will need less time in braces when they reach their preteen years. Early orthodontic treatment also yields better results, as we have more flexibility in preventing bite and alignment issues than we do in correcting them.