We may be in a bit of a scheduling lull right now due to the closures and orders associated with COVID-19, but in general, families these days are busier than ever. If you’re a parent, chances are good that you usually have a dozen alerts set on your phone to remind you of everything you need to remember on any given day. Even with so much on your plate, you probably still find time to make your child’s dental health a priority! Most moms and dads know how important it is for their kids to brush every night before bed and see the dentist for regular check-ups, but did you know that orthodontic evaluations are another essential part of maintaining a healthy smile? That’s why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7!
Many parents are surprised to learn that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a child have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of seven. That’s in large part because people in general tend to associate orthodontics with teens in braces, but children at that age also have developing mouths and a lot of baby teeth left. But that’s actually what makes it an ideal time to introduce orthodontic care!
Here at Luv Braces, we specialize in children’s dental services as well as orthodontics. That means we know exactly how beneficial preventive care can be! When experienced orthodontists like Dr. Tahbaz and Dr. Rezapour examine your child at a young age, they have the chance to catch any potential orthodontic issues before they become more serious. This can help prevent them from having a negative impact on their permanent teeth in the future, and their developing jaws as well. Diagnosing and treating issues early can positively impact their oral health as they grow.
If you have a child who is ready for their first orthodontic exam, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at how their mouth is developing. There are several things our doctors will be looking for at this initial visit, so keep reading below to learn more about what to expect!
Tooth loss and eruption
It can be tempting to think that baby teeth don’t matter, but the transition that happens as your child moves from primary to adult teeth is an important one. The baby teeth are placeholders for the permanent ones, so we’ll pay special attention to where your child’s are located and when they are lost. Since baby teeth tend to fall out in a fairly regular pattern, any significant deviation from it can signal possible developmental issues that may need further attention.
By seven years old, most children will have at least four permanent molars, and two to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. By removing a primary tooth early on, or maintaining the space where a tooth has been lost prematurely, we can sometimes prevent bigger issues later on.
Crowding and spacing
Orthodontists are trained to tell early on in a child’s life if they have (or are likely to have) problems with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth. Spacing issues may appear when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or even with teeth that are just too small or spaced too far apart. When crowded teeth are the main issue, we can often expand the arches or remove teeth to create more room as needed.
Crooked teeth are harder to clean effectively, and they’re also more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If left untreated over time, this can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue over time. By correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age, we’re able to prevent some of that excessive damage and keep the gums from being compromised.
Overbite or protrusive front teeth
Aside from the obvious cosmetic concerns, front teeth that noticeably protrude can also cause pain in the jaw, speech issues, and may be more prone to external trauma. If your child has an overbite, we may need to wait until their mouth is finished growing before attempting to permanently correct it, but we can often help reduce the severity of the problem in the meantime.
Most underbites are due to problems with the teeth or jaw. In more severe cases, the lower jaw may grow too far forward. As with overbites, we will sometimes need to wait until your child has finished growing to finish their treatment for an underbite. This phase of growth will usually reach completion by around the age of sixteen.
Even when a waiting period is involved, treatment in younger children can help! To avoid issues like bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth, we have a few things we can do to try and normalize the bite as much as possible early on.
If we do notice an underbite in your young child, we have a treatment option called “jumping the bite,” which allows us to get a handle on the situation before completing treatment in their teenage years. Patients who are treated for an underbite between the ages of about 7-10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery when they are older. This just goes to show that early treatment can reduce the risk for more invasive treatment later on in life!
Posterior crossbites can cause crowding in your child’s mouth, and can also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. When this is caught early, we sometimes have the option to expand the upper jaw at around 7-10 years of age. This can reduce crowding, creating the space necessary for the front teeth to erupt. Expansion may also eliminate any shifting that’s present due to a constricted upper jaw.
Anterior open bites and deep bites
These are vertical problems with the bite that can normally be spotted by the time your child is around seven. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This may point towards a small lower jaw. Open bites often don’t overlap enough, and may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. If that’s the case, we’ll be happy to work with both you and your child to eliminate any destructive habits early on, allowing normal development to continue as they grow.
Find your child’s best smile at Luv Braces
As you can see, early orthodontic evaluations are the easiest way to ensure your child has a healthy smile that will last a lifetime! They allow us to identify and correct problems that could end up costing you more time, money, and effort in the long run. Any orthodontic procedures that are performed after your child’s jaw bones harden and stop growing tend to be more intensive, and can sometimes involve more serious treatment like tooth extraction or oral surgery.
The talented team here at Luv Braces are dedicated to providing our patients with top-quality care in a fun, stress-free environment. If you’re in Austin, Bee Cave, or the surrounding communities, we’re here to help you achieve optimal oral health for your child! Give your child the best chance for a healthy, beautiful smile by getting in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Tahbaz or Dr. Rezapour.