While many parents know that regular dental visits from a young age are an important part of a child’s dental health, it’s often surprising to learn that early orthodontic evaluations are, too. They’re so important, in fact, that the American Association of Orthodontists recommend all children have their first orthodontic evaluation by about seven years of age!
When we think of orthodontics, it’s usually accompanied by the image of teens in braces, so this recommendation can seem strange. After all, most kids that young still have developing mouths and many baby teeth remaining. But seeing children this early is actually the point—this allows us to identify any potential orthodontic issues early on, giving us the chance to address them before they can become more serious.
We’ve treated many young patients over the years here at Riverview Orthodontics, and we’ve seen up close and personal just how powerful preventive care can be. Starting treatment at the most opportune time can make such a positive difference to a child’s oral health, and that’s why we agree that early orthodontic evaluations are important!
Even if your child has regular dental visits each year, malocclusions can be missed since not every dentist checks for them. Fortunately, you never need a dental referral to schedule an evaluation with an orthodontist! If you have a young child ready for their first orthodontic visit, we’d love the chance to meet you both and see how their mouth is developing.
During this exam, Dr. Upton will check for a number of issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is indicated now or may be needed in the future. To learn more about what he’ll be looking for and why an early orthodontic evaluation is so important, keep reading below!
Crowding and spacing
An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Upton will be able to tell fairly early on in a child’s life if there are issues with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth. He’ll also be able to get a pretty good indication of whether or not such problems are likely to show up later on.
Spacing issues can show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced apart. If crowding turns out to be an issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
We’re able to successfully align teeth at almost any age, and we’re actually treating more adult orthodontic patients than ever before. However, correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age allows us to give young children the best start for a healthy smile! Crooked teeth are more susceptible to uneven damage and wear. When left untreated over a long enough period of time, this can even compromise the surrounding gum tissue, affecting the shape and position of it.
Tooth Loss and Eruption
Many people underestimate the importance of baby teeth, especially since they all fall out anyway. But primary teeth are the placeholders for permanent teeth, so where they’re located and when a child loses them matters more than you may think! Because the primary teeth tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, any significant deviation from this pattern could signify a developmental issue that may need further attention from Dr. Upton.
By the time they’re seven years old, children should have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. When this happens, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early, or we may want to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent problems later on.
While a child’s cosmetic appearance may be the most obvious concern with protruding front teeth, they can also cause pain in the jaw along with possible speech issues. While we aren’t always able to permanently correct an overbite until your child’s mouth has finished growing, there are still a number of things we can do to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury. Doing so tends to make things easier for children socially and emotionally as well.
Underbites are generally caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward. If this occurs, we’ll usually need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin their treatment, around age 16 or so. Even if there’s a waiting period involved, early treatment can help us avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. There are various methods we can use to try and normalize the bite as early as possible. This includes something called “jumping the bite,” where we use braces or appliances to get a start on a young child’s underbite before completing treatment in their teen years. Research shows that underbite patients who receive treatment between the ages of about 7-10 are much less likely to need corrective jaw surgery when they get older.
A posterior crossbite can cause crowding, and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. When we’re able to expand the upper jaw in earlier childhood, we can reduce crowding and create space for the front teeth to come through uninterrupted. Expansion can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These bite problems occur vertically. They can usually be spotted by the time a child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, which can indicate a small lower jaw. In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough, which may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems.
If this is the case, our expert team will be happy to help you and your child eliminate destructive habits early on so that their oral development can continue normally.
Give your child the best start with early evaluations from Riverview Orthodontics
When you understand more about the role that early orthodontic evaluations play in a child’s oral health, it’s easy to see why they’re so important! If a child receives early orthodontic care, it can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, reducing the need for further treatment. Interceptive treatment like early evaluations can also make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more effective. Need more convincing? Timely treatment can lower the risk of periodontal disease, gum recession, and bone loss, too.
Here at Riverview Orthodontics, your child’s smile is our priority! Our family-friendly office will make you feel welcome from the moment you walk in the door, and we work hard to provide all of our patients with a stress-free orthodontic experience. Dr. Upton and the rest of our talented team have years of experience creating beautiful, healthy smiles for children, teens, and adults in Tuscaloosa, Demopolis, and the surrounding communities. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic visit, get in touch with us today to schedule a complimentary consultation. This is the perfect time to take the first step towards a lifetime of smiles!