Most parents realize that their children will need to see an orthodontist sometimes before their teen years, but what is the right age to make a visit with an orthodontist? Your family dentist should be able to guide you as to the right time to see an orthodontist, and it helps to know that the American Association of Orthodontist and other worldwide organizations recommend that a child have their first orthodontist appointment by age seven, or perhaps earlier if there are any signs of potential orthodontic issues.
Examples of problems that may be caused by orthodontic issues are:
- biting, chewing, or speech difficulties
- finger or pacifier sucking habits that continue past age five or six
- tooth crowding or spacing problems
- protruding front teeth
- painful jaw joints
- chronic mouth breathing
- jaw joints that click
- misplaced or extra teeth
- facial imbalance such as a weak or prominent chin
- baby teeth falling out too early
Although these are all signs that orthodontic issues may be present, sometimes problems have no noticeable symptoms. That is why it is essential to get your child checked by an orthodontist by the age of seven.
The first phase of treatment is called Phase 1, or interceptive treatment. This starts when your child still has most of their baby teeth and possibly a few of their permanent front incisors. The principle goal of this early treatment is to help the upper and lower jaws properly relate to each other, and to save space in the dental arches for the permanent teeth. Treatment may involve an appliance similar to a retainer that helps to guide the teeth into their proper positions, or it may involve removing a few of the baby teeth to provide adequate space for the permanent teeth.
Early appointments and treatments are beneficial because these attacks the problems when they are more manageable. Once the baby teeth have fallen out and the permanent teeth grows in, it is much harder to correct any alignment or spacial problems. Waiting too long to begin treatment may mean that your child will have to wear braces for longer periods of time or have problems that require additional treatment between braces.
Not all early problems will require intervention or treatment. Your orthodontist will be able to tell if treatment is needed, or if the problem will correct itself naturally as your child grows. That is why it is critical that you get your child to an orthodontist at an early age – you will have more options, less potential time wearing braces, and the possibility of reduced orthodontic costs. Taking your child to an orthodontist early also ensures a more balanced orthodontic profile, a better smile, and less potential problems and expenses in the future.