All parents know they must take a proactive role in their child’s dental care. They make sure their kids brush their teeth in the morning before school and before bed at night, monitor their intake of sugary sweets and make sure they’re getting the calcium they need for healthy, strong teeth.
However, when it comes to their child’s dental care there may be one thing parents are unsure about: when is the right time to take a child to an Orthodontist? We know that the Orthodontist will be the one who tells us whether our children require braces or other early orthodontic treatment to enjoy a straight, beautiful smile in adulthood, but at what age do they need to see a child to determine future treatment?
SEVEN TO THIRTEEN YEARS OLD
That’s right; the best age to first take your child to the Orthodontist is at seven years old. The ‘golden opportunity’ to catch dental problems early and save thousands runs roughly from 7 to 13 years of age.
In this age range, teeth and bones are more easily rearranged. Problems that could crop up along with growth down the line can be entirely avoided (saving heaps of trouble and money). Your child will grow up with their best smile on display. And you can plan for any future treatment that might be required.
This doesn’t mean your kid will have to be fitted out with a full set of braces before they’ve reached high school, but by age seven, it’s possible to identify excessive crowding or problems with spacing in the mouth.
DOES MY CHILD NEED BRACES?
Look for the following signs:
One of the most difficult things to correct in orthodontics are missing teeth. Identifying this early can result in early planning and huge savings in both time and costs down the track. Sometimes, baby teeth can be taken out and the spaces redistributed, avoiding the need for braces later.
CROWDING AND SPACING
As early as age 7, an orthodontist is sometimes able to tell if there are any problems relating to the future alignment of the teeth. Things like crowding or spacing are immediately evident.
Crowding may be treated with space maintainers, expanders or teeth extractions (and a few other techniques).
Spacing can be an indication that a baby tooth has been lost prematurely, a tooth never developed (missing), or that the teeth are just too small.
Teeth can be aligned at any age. However, the younger the patient, the more malleable and adaptive the bone and soft tissue structures are to being moved and changed by our treatment. Furthermore, because some crooked teeth can be more susceptible to wear, having uneven and compromised overlying gums and possibly be more prone to damage as a result of trauma – treatment started earlier may be much better for our patients. Lastly, a child’s smile has a huge influence on how they interact with other children, their self-perception and self esteem – so avoiding social implications may be the result of early treatment.
PROTRUDING FRONT TEETH (HAVING “BUCK” TEETH)
By the age of 7 years, it will be obvious if the front upper teeth stick out. This is a situation we cannot always correct 100%, as we may need to wait for the majority of the permanent teeth to come through, before we are be able to correct the positions of the neighbouring teeth. However, we can often reduce the severity of most problems and make things a lot easier for our young patients… both orthodontically and socially!
It is so important to see our patients with underbite problems early, as these patients may benefit the most from being treated early. It is important to aim to normalise the front teeth positions and the bite as early as possible, so that we can eliminate both shifting of the bite and damage to front teeth as a result of trauma from the occlusion. A definitive correction may not always result, but an improvement is almost always achieved.
A deep bite is problematic as it is one of the hardest things to correct in an adult, often requiring lengthy difficult treatment and maybe even surgery if severe enough. Correcting this early using plates or partial braces can be largely beneficial. Bites that are deep can result in gum damage (where the top teeth completely cover the lower teeth), tooth wear, and lower teeth crowding.
WHAT ABOUT BABY TEETH?
An Orthodontist can identify problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth even while there are still some baby teeth in the mouth. Orthodontists will have an idea on the number of baby teeth to permanent teeth that should be present at this age, and the numbers of present baby teeth may help to identify certain issues.
NOTICED ANY POTENTIAL ISSUES?
If you’ve noticed any of the above issues, a simple checkup could save you heaps of trouble and money down the line.
If your child is seven or over and hasn’t had an Orthodontic appointment yet, book one in today on our website.