Family Health Magazine - DENTAL HEALTH
First Trip to the Orthodontist
When should it happen?
Since most children beginning orthodontic treatment do so between ages 10 and 14, it may be surprising to learn that your child should first be evaluated before age 10. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends scheduling a first orthodontic evaluation either at the first sign of orthodontic problems or no later than age seven.
Why is age seven best?
To have a healthy mouth and a smile that is good for life, your child needs a healthy bite. This means teeth and jaws that are aligned properly. At seven, most children have a mix of adult and baby teeth. Checking the mouth while some baby teeth are present allows the orthodontist to spot problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth that are not obvious. The first adult molars also erupt around age seven, establishing the back bite. At this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For instance, the erupting incisors (the front four teeth on the upper and lower jaws) can show possible overbite, open bite, or a gummy smile. Screening at the right time increases the chances for the best outcome and an incredible smile.
Although early diagnosis is encouraged, treatment may not be necessary. Careful examination can anticipate the best time to begin treatment. Usually the child is scheduled for return visits to monitor jaw growth and emerging teeth.
Benefits of early treatment
Finding and monitoring an orthodontic problem early can make it much easier to resolve. Early evaluation can:
- reduce the need to extract permanent teeth
- reduce or eliminate the need for jaw surgery
- guide the growth of the jaw
- guide incoming permanent teeth into desirable positions
- lower the risk of trauma or injury to front teeth that stick out
- correct harmful oral habits like thumb and finger sucking
- maintain or gain space for permanent teeth coming in
- possibly lessen the need for future, more extensive and costly procedures
- help a child to feel good about personal appearance
- reduce or eliminate swallowing or speech problems
- assess and treat airway, breathing, and excessive snoring problems.
Will my child need orthodontics?
When your child is six or seven years old, start looking for clues that suggest an orthodontic evaluation may be wise. Teeth that look straight may be hiding a problem bite. Look for:
- early or late loss of baby teeth
- difficulty chewing or biting
- breathing through the mouth
- thumb or finger sucking and other related habits
- crowded, misplaced or blocked-out teeth
- a jaw that is too far forward or back
- biting the cheek or into the roof of the mouth
- teeth that stick out (protrude)
- upper and lower teeth that do not meet
- upper and lower teeth that meet in an abnormal way
- an unbalanced facial appearance
- grinding or clenching of the teeth.
If you suspect your child may need ortho-dontic treatment, scheduling an early assessment may be worth your while.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6 [GO_FHd13]