When Should a Child First See an Orthodontist
At 7 years old, orthodontic problems can be extremely hard to detect due to the mouth being in the early stages of growth. However, this does not mean oral issues and maladaptive habits are not already present or forming at this young age.
At age 7, children are early in the process of losing their baby teeth, so many parents assume that seeing an orthodontist is years away. This is a commonly held, yet inaccurate belief.
The major professional associations within orthodontics, such as the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), strongly encourage parents to bring their children in for orthodontic evaluations at 7 years of age.
Many parents may be unsure about this recommendation, thinking that it is either far too young for any real problems to exist or that treatment should wait until they are older.
While these concerns are understandable, there are solid, science-backed reasons why an orthodontic consultation at this age is in the best interest of the child, both in the short term and long term.
Why Children Should See an Orthodontist Before 7 Years Old
- Teeth and Jaws are Easily Moved
One of the foremost reasons that children should see an orthodontist by the age of 7 is because the teeth and jaws are in a malleable state, meaning they can be easily manipulated and moved if needed. The growth plate in the upper jaw is still open and the upper jaw width can be widened with simple and conservative methods if needed. If developing adult teeth that are underneath the gums are out of position or erupting off track, they can be redirected to avoid impaction of teeth.
On the other hand, adult jaws are set and not movable (without jaw surgery). Additionally, the bone around the teeth is oftentimes denser than in children, making movement of teeth less efficient in adults. Therefore, treatment during childhood normally proceeds quicker and easier than if it is done at a later age.
- Problems May be Identified Early
Even more, a board-certified, knowledgeable orthodontist will be able to not only spot, but predict whether a problem is present or will be present soon.
At this age, the first molars (“six-year molars”) and some of the incisors (upper and lower front four teeth) have erupted through the gums. Because of this, the doctor can easily detect problems such as improper bite relationships and current or anticipated space deficiencies for permanent teeth.
Children can only benefit from receiving an orthodontic consultation at this recommended early age. There are no downsides by taking precautions when it comes to oral hygiene and health.
In addition, the board-certified doctors of Burke & Redford Orthodontists also give every potential new patient a no-obligation, free consultation.
There has never been a better time to be seen for an initial consultation. Just call us at (951) 699-8011 to schedule an appointment, or request one through our website anytime.
- Interceptive Treatment May be Needed
In many cases, the doctor will recommend a 7-year-old to come back at a later date to re-evaluate how the teeth and jaws are developing. This does not mean the initial consultation at age 7 was a waste of time! A baseline set of records can prove extremely valuable later when comparing to future recall records. The orthodontist will use this comparison to determine how conservatively or aggressively treatment or continued observation should proceed.
Other times, active treatment for a 7-year-old may be advised at the initial meeting.
Only a trained professional will be able to adequately make this decision concerning appropriately timed care.
- Interceptive Treatment May Not be Needed
There is a subset of the child population who will not need early treatment and whose initial presentation will not indicate any likely future problems. For these kids, this early examination will benefit the parent by giving them peace of mind.
Types of Common Orthodontic Issues Children 7 and Under
- Issues Due to Habits
There are certain habits some children develop that may lead to the disruption of the normal growth of the mouth.
The common maladaptive habits adopted during childhood are:
- Thumb or finger sucking
- Pacifier use (beyond the normal time of use)
- Mouth breathing
- Biting nails
- Lip sucking (can indicate excess protrusion of front teeth or contribute to further protrusion)
Parents should closely monitor their child to determine if any of these habits are occurring. If any of these habits are observed, it should be discussed with the orthodontist during the initial consultation.
Additional Orthodontic Issues in Children 7 and Younger
Common problems include:
- Anterior crossbite (one of more of the lower front teeth sit in front of the upper front teeth)
- Posterior crossbite (the upper back teeth sit towards the inside of the lower back teeth)
- Crowding (overlapping teeth)
- Open bite (there is a vertical space present between front teeth when biting down on the back teeth)
- Protrusion (upper teeth jut forward excessively)
- Ectopic eruption (adult tooth is erupting off track or significantly out of its normal position)
- Complete underbite (all the lower front teeth sit forward of the upper front teeth when biting down)
- Diastema (a space present between teeth; usually seen between the upper front two teeth)
- Jaw asymmetries (particularly if it is noticed that the lower jaw shifts to one side of the face or forwards when biting down)
While most of these issues are inherited, some of them come about through a combination of genetics and specific habits.
No matter the origins, all warrant thorough and expert evaluation by an experienced orthodontist sooner rather than later in life.
What Are the Typical Treatment Methods Used?
There are several treatment methods that may be used with young children. The specific appliance used is decided upon through the discretion and expertise of the doctor in tandem with the preferences of the child’s parent.
The standard appliances used may include:
- Expander devices
- Dental Braces (ceramic, metal, Damon system, Invisalign, etc.)
- Space maintainers (appliances that are glued into the mouth to hold space for future permanent tooth eruption)
- Headgear (usually only worn at night)
All appliances used during treatment are state-of-the-art in both design and safety.
What Happens During an Orthodontic Consultation?
The idea of an orthodontic consultation may bring about some anxiety in young children. However, parents can assure their children that there is nothing to be concerned about.
Dr. Redford and Dr. Burke treat children of every age and will happily answer any questions a child or parent may have for them. It is the goal of our doctors to make children feel relaxed and reassured they are in good hands during each orthodontic appointment.
A consultation is simply an appointment whereby the patient will be carefully examined by the doctor to determine if any issues exist that are important to address. There is no poking or prodding with at this appointment and it is done so in a quiet and comfortable consultation room away from the busier areas of the office.
If any problem is identified, the orthodontist will then work in conjunction with the parent and the child’s dentist to establish a plan of treatment.
How We Can Help You Get Started
As board-certified orthodontists, Dr. Redford and Dr. Burke make excellent patient care, safety, and comfort top priorities throughout each patient’s course of treatment. Our doctors are always available to address questions and concerns to the best of their abilities.
Initial consultations are made for all new patients without charge. Burke & Redford Orthodontists offer zero-interest financing treatment options for qualifying patients.
If you or your child would like to take advantage of our complimentary consultation, please call (951) 699-8011 during normal business hours. The doctors can explain why a child should see an orthodontist prior to the age of 7 and answer any questions you may have for them regarding your child’s orthodontic needs.