When should my child first see an orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) strongly recommends a child’s first visit to the orthodontist at age 7. This seems young to many parents thinking about traditional full sets of braces, but keep in mind this visit is to help screen for issues that get worse with time or become too difficult to correct later. Here’s a quick summary of some of the issues we screen for and why it’s important:
- Habits: Continued thumb or finger sucking habits can dramatically affect position of the teeth and bone! If they are stopped early, many side effects can be corrected. However, if habits are continued until growth has stopped, treatment can be much longer and potentially involve tooth removal or jaw surgery.
- Missing or extra teeth: Early identification of missing or extra teeth is very important. Removing extra teeth at the correct time can dramatically improve the eruption of the adult teeth. With missing teeth, creating a plan early ensures good coordination throughout growth – sometimes a baby tooth can be removed early and space can be closed so a dental implant is not needed.
- Crossbites: Crossbites are teeth hitting on the wrong side of the bite. This can cause chipping or wear on the wrong side of the adult teeth, leading to more dental treatment in the future. Also, many of these crossbite will actually interfere with the normal bite, causing the jaw to shift out of position and leading to asymmetric jaw growth. It is important to correct crossbites at the ideal time, before asymmetric jaw growth and damage to teeth has occurred.
- Crowding: In cases of minor crowding, it is typically ideal to wait until all adult teeth erupt before starting orthodontics to correct any issues. However, in some moderate to severe cases, teeth won’t erupt into a healthy position without intervention. In these cases, there can be options to remove baby teeth early to improve eruption of permanent teeth or expand the upper jaw early to create space for tooth eruption.
- General eruption of teeth: Adult teeth are meant to come in directly underneath the baby teeth, which is what loosens the baby teeth so they fall out. However, in many cases the adult teeth erupt out of position – early removal of the baby teeth can dramatically help in the right situation to allow the adult tooth to erupt into the correct position.
Finally, whether any intervention is needed or not, this is a great way to get your child comfortable coming to the orthodontic office! If you are interested in having your child seen for a complimentary consultation, please call our office at 715-514-3333 or schedule online.