As parents, it can be difficult for us to determine not only if our children should see an orthodontist, but when the optimum time would be for their first visit. Fortunately, our experienced team here at Sawgrass Orthodontics is here to help! We have created this handy guide for parents considering orthodontic treatment for their children, whether now or in the future.

Early orthodontic screening

Dental experts believe one of the keys to ensuring a lifetime of straight smiles is an orthodontic screening for every child once they have their permanent teeth, usually by the age of seven or so. Why so soon? Early monitoring by an orthodontist can help identify and address any issues that could become problematic later. This is sometimes referred to as “interceptive treatment,” which is a fancy way of saying early treatment or intervention. Some of the benefits of this are:

 

  • A better prognosis for how permanent teeth will develop
  • The ability to correct any bad habits that can often be the cause of development problems
  • Correcting bite problems like open bites, cross bites or deep bites
  • Lowering the risk of damage to any protruding teeth
  • The ability to improve your child’s appearance
  • Alleviating future, possibly invasive, dental correction
  • Increasing your child’s confidence and self-esteem

 

Early diagnosis and monitoring will allow your orthodontist the opportunity to create straight, well-aligned at a time when your child’s bone structure is easier to shape. But how do you decide which teeth are normal but imperfect, and which will actually require professional treatment?

Determining what’s normal and what’s not

 

  1. Regular dental visits from an early age.

The best way to determine whether your children will need braces is to take them to the dentist regularly. All children should have their first visit to the dentist by around age two, and an initial consultation with an orthodontist by around age seven.

You’ll generally be able to tell between the ages of five and eight whether your child’s teeth are coming in normally, or if they’re showing early signs of common tooth or jaw misalignment problems. In this age range, children will have both some permanent teeth and some baby teeth—usually the upper and lower incisors and the six-year molars. However, most parents won’t be able to determine what’s normal or not, so regular dental checkups at this age are still important.

  1. Be aware of crowding and abnormal tooth spacing.

Some types of orthodontic problems, called malocclusions, are obvious pretty early on, while others might not look bad but can cause real dental issues if left untreated. Some of the most common malocclusions are crowding (where the teeth bunch up against each other), excessive spacing (where large gaps form between the teeth), and abnormal eruption (one or more teeth appearing in the wrong location.)

All of these issues can cause dental complications that go beyond having a smile kids might want to keep under wraps. For untreated malocclusions, there’s an increased risk of developing tooth decay, periodontal disease, and even jawbone loss later in life. There’s no need to panic if you suspect one of these conditions developing in your child, though! Be sure to bring it up at their next check up, but there’s no reason to make an emergency appointment.

  1. Pay attention to an unusual bite or jaw structure.

 

Problems can sometimes develop in the jawline, and in how the upper and lower teeth come together to form a bite. Some common examples are as follows:

  • a crossbite, which occurs when the lower teeth overlap the upper teeth. This is the opposite of what normally occurs. A reversed bite like this can lead to a shift in the bite or gum problems in the teeth that are involved.
  • an open bite, where the upper and lower teeth don’t meet at all, and instead form more of an oval shape
  • an underbite, which is a condition where the lower jaw is more forward than the upper jaw. This often requires expanders in the upper jaw, and braces on either or both jaws. The treatment will depend on your child’s age and the severity of the condition, but if your child’s teeth don’t meet when they bite down, braces are almost inevitable.

 

If left untreated, these misalignments can have lifelong implications. While these issues are often easily corrected in a growing child, they’re much more difficult to reverse in an adult.

  1. Keep an eye on oral behaviors.

Some common childhood behaviors can cause dental problems later on. Thumb sucking, finger sucking, and bottle or pacifier usage past the toddler stage can lead to or aggravate orthodontic problems.

Sometimes a child having trouble biting or chewing may indicate a need for braces, since it could be related to a bad bite. Just be aware that bite or jaw problems don’t always interfere with how a child eats or chews, so don’t rely on that as concrete evidence of anything. These issues are best brought to your orthodontist’s attention.

  1. Listen to their speech and pay attention to their self-esteem.

There are some speech problems that can be directly related to orthodontic issues. Even if your child’s teeth appear relatively straight and normal to you, have them checked out by an orthodontist if they have a speech impediment, just to rule that possibility out. Lisping, especially, can often be dental-related.

Some orthodontic issues might seem cosmetic in nature, but if a dental problem is causing real damage to your child’s emotional well-being and self-esteem, it’s worth exploring treatment based on the psychological benefits.

I think my child may need braces. What is the right age for braces?

 

In general, pre-teen (10-12) and early teen (13-14) are the prime ages for wearing braces. In this period of early adolescence, children are still growing at a rapid pace. If you wait too far past that window, many orthodontic issues can become more difficult and expensive to treat as the facial and jaw bones settle into their adult sizes.

Although orthodontists today can successfully correct most problems regardless of the patient’s age, starting treatment within this “sweet spot” can play a significant role in the total time and expenses required for the completion of the orthodontic treatment.

If you think it may be time to for your child to see an orthodontist, please do not hesitate to contact us! We’re a full-service orthodontic office in Sunrise, Florida. Outside of Sunrise, we’re also proud to serve patients throughout our neighboring communities including Weston, Davie, and Plantation. The Sawgrass Orthodontics team is here for you and your entire family!

So schedule your free consultation today, and take the first step toward ensuring that your children achieve the beautiful, healthy smiles that they deserve!

- Dr. Langford

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