As you might already know, the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that all children have their first visit with the orthodontist by the age of seven. That’s because at this age, an orthodontist can see how the jaw and teeth are developing, and if there is an issue, it can be addressed now rather than waiting for later when it might be more difficult to fix.
Parents are relieved to learn that even though all children should see the orthodontist at a young age, the majority aren’t good candidates for Phase One treatment. But for those who could benefit from early intervention, what are the signs? How do you know if your child could benefit from braces? Here’s what to look for.
A Bad Bite
A bad bite, or malocclusion, is when the top and bottom teeth don’t fit together as they should. Besides affecting appearance, a bad bite can impact function, sometimes making it difficult to chew, speak properly, or even swallow. It can also cause excessive wear of the teeth and make it more difficult to properly clean teeth, making them more vulnerable to cavities.
A crossbite is when the upper teeth sit inside the lower teeth, often due to a narrow upper jaw. By contrast, an underbite is when the lower teeth protrude past the upper teeth, often due to a larger lower jaw or underdeveloped upper jaw (or both). An overjet, or severe overbite, is when the lower jaw is too far back, making the upper teeth sit significantly further forward than the lower teeth.
A bad bite may be apparent, or you may not notice it as a parent, which is why it’s good to have an orthodontist assess your child’s bite. Treatment usually consists of a combination of appliances and full or partial braces.
Crowding of Teeth
By the age of seven, children have baby teeth plus a few permanent teeth. This stage is a good opportunity to see how the teeth are erupting and if there are any issues with crowding. A little crowding can typically be dealt with later, in the teen years, but severe overcrowding is best treated early.
An orthodontist will look to see if there’s sufficient space in the mouth for the teeth that are still coming in. They’ll also look for overlapping adult teeth, which is a sign of overcrowding. As with a bad bite, treatment for overcrowding typically involves appliances plus braces, and may also require the removal of select baby teeth.
Giving Your Child the Gift of a Smile
Most children don’t need early (Phase One) treatment, and many don’t need later (Phase Two) treatment, in adolescence, either. But if your child does have issues with a bad bite or crowded, misaligned teeth, I encourage you to go to the orthodontist for an exam and to get some information. You may be surprised at the options available nowadays, both in terms of treatment and payment plans.
Choosing orthodontic treatment for your child is an investment in them, in their confidence, and in their future. It’s a gift that can’t be taken away, and will be with them for life. What’s a better gift than that?