Orthodontics can play an important role in a young child’s oral health. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontics recommends all children have an orthodontic evaluation by the time they’re 7 years old. If you have a child around this age, you may be wondering why an orthodontic visit is necessary, especially if their smile appears relatively straight! But as we all know, appearances can be deceiving, and an orthodontist is trained to see underlying issues the average person may miss like a misaligned bite, crowded teeth, or irregularities in the way the permanent teeth are erupting.
By around the age of 7, most children will have enough dental “landmarks” in place that an experienced orthodontist can assess their teeth, jaw, and bite to ensure everything is developing as it should be. An evaluation won’t always lead to treatment! Here at Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics, we actually recommend immediate treatment for only a small fraction of the younger patients we see. However, a visit with Dr. Yu can give you peace of mind that your child’s smile is off to the absolute best start in life. Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from these early orthodontic evaluations!
Common orthodontic issues
During your child’s first orthodontic visit, Dr. Yu’s main focus will be assessing their general oral health and development. She’ll also be looking for anything out of the ordinary that could signal treatment is warranted, whether now or in the future. When we’re able to identify these problems early on, we have the opportunity to correct them before they develop into something more serious. There are several common orthodontic issues Dr. Yu will be looking for during an evaluation, including the following.
Aside from the cosmetic impact of crooked teeth, they can also be harder to clean and are more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If these issues are left untreated over time, it can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue.
Our primary teeth are the placeholders for our permanent teeth, so they matter more than you may think! They also tend to fall out in a pretty specific order. If your child has any significant deviation from that pattern, it could mean there is a developmental issue that requires further attention.
These problems can occur when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or if a child has teeth that are too small or spaced too far apart.
We expect most children to have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors by around the age of 7. Any more or less than this could indicate a potential problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth.
Front teeth that noticeably protrude may be viewed as primarily a cosmetic concern, but they can also increase the risk of potential injury to the permanent teeth and affect a child’s speech.
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. This usually involves the lower jaw growing too far forward, or the upper jaw growing deficiently.
A posterior crossbite can cause crowding and may cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other so the top and bottom teeth can fit together. A narrow upper jaw can also be associated with a narrow nasal passage.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These bite problems occur vertically. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, which can indicate a small lower jaw. With an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough.
Benefits of an early orthodontic evaluation
There are many reasons to love early evaluations, but much of their value lies in the fact that they enable us to approach orthodontic care in a proactive way instead of simply reacting. That means we can provide our younger patients with the care and treatment they need when it’s most advantageous to them! There are other benefits to consider as well. We’ll outline some of these here.
Guide jaw growth effectively
In childhood, the mouth and jaw is still growing and developing. That makes it the ideal time to help guide jaw growth with orthodontics! This helps ensure a child has a healthy bite, and is often far less invasive than treatment would be for someone whose jaws have already stopped growing.
Break bad oral habits
Oral habits like thumb-sucking and tongue thrusting can cause misaligned teeth and even change the shape of the jaw. The sooner they’re addressed, the less destructive they have a chance to be! There are a number of treatments available to help correct these bad habits and reverse any damage already done.
Find out what’s happening beneath the surface
When you schedule a complimentary consultation for your child, their evaluation will include panoramic x-rays. These let Dr. Yu see what’s happening beneath the surface of their smile! She’ll be able to look at the position and growth of the permanent teeth that haven’t erupted yet, allowing her to create a treatment plan for the best possible outcome based on your child’s specific needs.
Give your child the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles with Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics
Bringing your child in for an early evaluation with an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Yu is one of the best ways to maintain their oral health over the years. If there’s no indication that immediate treatment is necessary, we’ll invite you to continue visiting our team every 6-12 months so we can continue to monitor their smile as they grow. By doing so, we’re much more likely to catch and treat any emerging issues early on. These recall visits are always free of charge at our Portland and Windham offices.
If your child is ready for their first orthodontic visit, get in touch with Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics today to schedule their FREE evaluation with Dr. Yu. We’ll be happy to help your child take the first step towards a confident, healthy smile they’ll want to share with the whole world!