What is the Best Age for Children to Visit the Orthodontist?
It used to be that the rule of thumb for taking kids to the orthodontist for the first time relied on how many baby teeth they had, which meant most kids started visiting their orthodontist around age 11. Now the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first visit the orthodontist by age 7. What’s behind the change?
Of course not all kids actually need treatment at age 7, but a lot of future orthodontic problems can be identified by then. And once identified, a treatment plan can be formulated, and sometimes, precautionary steps can be taken that are less invasive than treatments available later in adolescence.
Some of the things we’ll look for during your child’s first visit include:
Tooth Loss and Eruption
Although every child is unique, the order that baby teeth are lost is fairly specific. When kids lose their teeth out of order, it can indicate a developmental issue that needs attention. The first 8 primary teeth are usually lost between the ages of 6 an 8, and ideally these teeth are immediately replaced with permanent teeth. Also by the age of 7, children should have their first 4 permanent molars. Kids who have more or fewer teeth than 4 permanent molars and 4 – 8 permanent incisors by this age may experience crowding, missing, or extra teeth. Sometimes removing a primary tooth early or maintaining a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely can prevent bigger problems later on.
Overbites can’t be permanently corrected before growth is finished, but it is possible to reduce the severity of an overbite while a child is still growing. This can make future orthodontics more comfortable and spare children from social stigma when an overbite is severe.
Similarly, underbites are best treated near the final stages of growth but the process of normalization can be started much earlier. This can help a child avoid trauma to the teeth and make the process of correcting an underbite easier.
Posterior crossbites create crowding and can cause the jaw to shift laterally (to one side or the other). Expanding the upper jaw around age 7 or 8 can reduce crowding and create the space necessary for the eruption of the anteriors.
Anterior Openbites and Deepbites
Bites that don’t overlap enough, also known as openbites, can indicate that finger or thumb sucking has created dental problems. Bites that are too deep, where the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, may indicate that the patient has a small lower jaw.
When kids are screened around age 7, these and other conditions can be identified and corrected early.
No matter your child’s age, give us a call today for a free, initial consultation. We’re always happy to answer questions and help you decide if orthodontics is right for your family.