As a parent, you’re already aware of how important regular dental care is for your children, starting from an early age. You’re probably vigilant about scheduling regular checkups and making sure everybody brushes their teeth before bed, but you may not know that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a child have their first orthodontic evaluation by the young age of seven. This might be surprising, but children this age still have their baby teeth and a developing mouth, so it’s actually an ideal time to introduce orthodontics!
Preventative orthodontic care is beneficial in many ways. By having an experienced orthodontist examine your child in their younger years, potential issues can be caught early, before they have the chance to become problematic. This can help prevent any negative impact on their future permanent teeth, and their developing jaws. Unger Orthodontics sees many young patients from childhood through adolescence. Being able to diagnose and treat issues before they have a chance to turn into something serious, can really make a positive difference to their overall oral health as they grow.
When you bring your child in for an early orthodontic evaluation, there are several issues we’ll be on the lookout for, including:
Tooth loss and eruption
The transition that happens as your child moves from baby to permanent teeth is an important one. Because the primary teeth are placeholders for the permanent ones, our team will take careful note of where they’re located and when they are lost, as baby teeth normally fall out in a fairly regular pattern. Any significant deviation from this pattern can signal to us that there may be developmental issues needing attention.
By the age of seven, most children will have at least four permanent molars, as well as two to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, there could eventually be problems with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. Sometimes removing a primary tooth early, or maintaining a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely, can help to prevent bigger issues later on.
Crowding and spacing
Dr. Unger is an experienced orthodontist and therefore is able to tell early on in your child’s life if they already have or will have problems in the future. These problems could include excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth. Spacing issues can show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are just too small or spaced apart. With crowded teeth, we can often expand the arches or remove teeth to create more room.
Crooked teeth are more susceptible to damage and wear, and leaving them untreated over time can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. Correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age can help prevent excessive wear and tear, keep the gums from being compromised, and can also improve your child’s self-esteem, giving them a more positive self-image.
Overbite or protrusive front teeth
While there are some cosmetic concerns with front teeth that obviously protrude, they can also cause pain in the jaw, and even possible speech issues (biggest issues is that the front teeth are susceptible to damage if the child gets hit with a ball or runs into something that could fracture the tooth). We will sometimes need to wait until your child’s mouth is finished growing before attempting to permanently correct an overbite, but we can help reduce the severity of the problem in the meantime.
Underbites can be caused by either tooth or jaw problems, and in more severe cases, the lower jaw grows too far forward. As with overbites, we’ll typically need to wait until your child has finished growing to finish their treatment for an underbite. This usually happens around the age of sixteen. Although there may be a waiting period involved, early treatment remains incredibly important. To avoid issues like bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth, we’ll want to try and normalize the bite as much and 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. By catching this early, we have the option to expand the upper jaw between the ages of 7-9. This can reduce crowding and create the kind of space necessary to allow the front teeth to erupt. Expansion can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw.
Anterior open bites and deep bites
These are vertical problems with the bite, but Dr. Unger will be able to spot them right away. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, and this can indicate a small lower jaw. Bites that don’t overlap enough (open bites) may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. Whatever the case may be, we’ll work with both you and your child to eliminate these kinds of destructive habits early on, allowing normal development to occur.
Early evaluations, easier smiles
Early orthodontic evaluations are undeniably an important part of giving your child the best chance for a healthy and straight smile. Delaying orthodontic evaluations until there’s a noticeable problem can end up costing you more money and take up a larger percentage of your time.
Delaying an evaluation and missing out on early orthodontic treatment can also lead to more complicated treatment later in life for your child. Most children lose all their baby teeth by the time they’re entering their teens, and by the end of those teen years the jaw bones harden and stop growing. Any orthodontic procedures performed after this point tend to be more intensive and can sometimes involve things like tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, reducing the need for any extractions or surgery in the future.
Even though some treatments may require all permanent teeth be erupted before proceeding, early orthodontic evaluations can make comprehensive treatment for your child faster and easier.
Early orthodontic evaluations
As important as early evaluations are, it’s equally important to choose an orthodontist who is highly trained and experienced. You will find that with Dr. Unger! He believes that giving patients the best care possible depends in part on staying up to date on the latest techniques and trends in orthodontics. He dedicates a great deal of time to continuing education classes and seminars to continue adding to his extensive amount of knowledge. We’re here to give your child the best start to finding their very best smile!