Do you ensure your child has regular dental visits throughout the year? Most parents and caregivers understand that cleanings and check-up visits with a dentist are an important part of keeping their child’s smile happy and healthy. But what you may not know is that early orthodontic evaluations play an essential role in maintaining good oral, too! In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that your child should see an orthodontist by age 7. But why?
The importance of early orthodontic evaluations
Since kids this age still have developing mouths and a number of baby teeth left, you may wonder how these early evaluations are beneficial. We love them because they allow us to assess a child for orthodontic issues before they have the chance to become more serious. These may already be present, or could be at risk of developing later in life. There are several common orthodontic problems that can be caused by genetics, injury, unusual growth patterns, or poor oral habits. When you schedule your child for a free consultation with Wilson Orthodontics, we’ll be looking for issues like:
Unusual tooth loss and eruption
Our baby teeth are placeholders for the permanent teeth, and Dr. Wilson will take careful note of where they are located and when they are lost. Because baby teeth tend to fall out in a fairly regular pattern, any significant deviation from this pattern can be a sign of developmental issues needing attention.
Crowding and spacing
Spacing issues may appear when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or even with teeth that are just too small or spaced too far apart.
Crooked teeth are more susceptible to damage and wear, which can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue over time. They’re also more difficult to brush and floss effectively, which can increase the risk for cavities and tooth decay.
Overbite or protrusive front teeth
Front teeth that obviously protrude often cause cosmetic concerns, but they can also lead to pain in the jaw and speech issues.
Most underbites are due to problems with the teeth or jaw. In more severe cases, the lower jaw may grow too far forward. To avoid issues like bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth, we will make an effort to normalize the bite as much as possible, as early as possible.
Posterior crossbites can cause crowding in your child’s mouth, and can also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. When this is caught early, we sometimes have the option to expand the upper jaw at around 7-10 years of age. This can reduce crowding, creating the space necessary for the front teeth to erupt.
Anterior open bites and deep bites
These vertical problems with the bite can normally be spotted by an experienced orthodontist by the time your child is around 7 years old. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This can point towards a small lower jaw. Open bites often don’t overlap enough, and may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems.
To understand why early evaluations are recommended, it helps to know a bit about how things change in a child’s mouth as they get older. By the end of their teen years, a child’s jaw bones will begin to harden and eventually stop growing. Orthodontic procedures performed after this point will often take more time and may involve more complex treatment, such as tooth extractions or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics later in life, giving kids the best chance at a confident smile that will last a lifetime!
What you can expect from an early orthodontic evaluation
Bringing your child in for an evaluation doesn’t mean we’ll automatically put them in braces! In reality, we rarely recommend immediate orthodontic treatment for young children. By the time a child is 7 or so, an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Wilson will be able to identify how their bite is likely to progress as they grow. Panoramic x-rays assist us with this, as well. If there are any issues present, we’ll be able to get your child the optimal care they need when they need it most!
Being proactive in this way is often referred to as Phase I treatment, and we normally use it to encourage jaw development that will:
- better accommodate all the permanent teeth
- improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together
- reduce the risk for damage due to crowding, misalignment, or malformed jaws
If Dr. Wilson feels that your child is a good fit for Phase I treatment, he may opt to use an orthodontic appliance like braces or aligners for a period of time. These can help correct poor jaw growth, create space for the developing teeth, and help the facial muscles develop normally. It can be done with one or both jaws. After this initial phase is complete, the appliance will be removed and a period of observation will begin. During this time, Dr. Wilson may recommend a retainer to keep the teeth stable, and will continue to monitor your child’s mouth every 4-6 months.
Most Phase I patients will eventually need Phase II treatment. This often requires another round of braces or aligners to continue the stabilizing process, and will complete the process of moving the teeth into the desired positions. At this point, your child will be left with nothing but a beautiful and functional smile!
Start your child’s smile off on the right foot with Wilson Orthodontics
At Wilson Orthodontics, we’re proud to provide FREE consultations, so there’s nothing to lose by bringing your child in for an early evaluation! There’s no dental referral necessary, either. If no immediate care is necessary, we can continue to monitor your child’s smile as they grow. By keeping up with their dental development over the years, we’ll be able to catch any emerging problems and treat them as needed.
If you’re in Frisco or the surrounding communities and have a child ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, we’d love to meet you both! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE virtual or in-office consultation with Dr. Wilson and get ready to discover your child’s best smile.