When it comes to maintaining your child’s smile, scheduling them for regular dental visits and cleanings is one of the most important things you can do. But did you know that orthodontic evaluations can play an essential role in oral health as well? An early examination with an experienced orthodontist helps ensure a healthy and functioning mouth, yet many parents and caregivers are unaware that this is even an option. That’s why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7!
You may be wondering why we recommend early evaluations, since younger children still have developing mouths and most of their baby teeth. That works to our advantage, though. When we’re able to evaluate a child’s mouth at this stage, we’re able to do things like:
- correct and guide jaw growth to help the permanent teeth come in straighter
- regulate the width of the upper and lower arches
- create more space for crowded teeth
- avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions later in life
- correct bad oral habits and help improve many minor speech problems
You don’t have to take our word for it, though—the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of seven. Here at Nirenblatt Orthodontics, we treat patients of all ages, including children. We’ve seen firsthand how preventive care can have a positive impact on a child’s oral health!
If you have a young child ready for an orthodontic evaluation, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at their dental development. Dr. Nirenblatt will check for several issues during this initial appointment, which will give him an indication of whether or not treatment is necessary now or in the future. To get a better idea of what he’ll be looking for and how preventive treatment works, keep reading below.
Step 1: your child’s consultation and orthodontic evaluation
Most children around the age of 7 will have a mixture of both permanent and baby teeth. An early examination gives orthodontists the chance to find, diagnose, and treat many common dental issues before they develop into something more serious. Some of the things Dr. Nirenblatt will be looking for when you bring your child in is:
Crooked teeth can be hard to brush and floss effectively. They’re also more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If left untreated over time, this can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue.
Baby teeth are the placeholders for our permanent teeth, and they tend to fall out in a fairly specific order. Any significant deviation from this pattern could signify a developmental issue that requires further attention.
By the age of seven, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth.
Trouble with spacing can show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced apart. If crowding is an issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Front teeth that obviously protrude can be a cosmetic concern, but also increase the risk of potential injury to the permanent teeth. Speech issues are a possibility as well.
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws, and involves the lower jaw growing too far forward.
A posterior crossbite can cause crowding, and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other to fit the top and bottom teeth together. A narrow upper jaw can be associated with a narrow nasal passage sometimes, too.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These are bite problems that occur vertically. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, which can indicate a small lower jaw.
In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This often indicates that there’s a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems.
The basics of preventive treatment
Early orthodontic evaluations allow us to be proactive rather than reactive, which ensures children get the orthodontic care they need at the most optimal time and manner. We refer to this type of intervention as Phase I treatment. These methods can achieve results that may be unattainable once the face and jaws have finished growing later on in a child’s life.
Phase I treatment helps a child’s jaw develop in a way that can better accommodate all the permanent teeth, improves the way the upper and lower jaws fit together, and can reduce the risk for tooth damage due to crowding, misalignment, or malformed jaws.
During Phase I treatment, we will often use fixed or removable orthodontic appliances for a period of time to correct poor jaw growth, create space for developing teeth, and help the facial muscles develop normally. This treatment may apply to one or both jaws.
Once Phase I treatment is complete, any appliances will be removed and we’ll begin an observational period. Every 4-6 months or so, we’ll take a look at the developing permanent teeth. We may recommend the use of retainers during this time, which will contribute to long-term stability. Most Phase I patients will eventually need Phase II treatment as this will continue the stabilizing process by moving the teeth into their final optimal positions. This will generally require braces or clear aligners to finalize the bite correction and achieve a healthy, confident smile!
Create a custom smile for your child with Nirenblatt Orthodontics
Along with regular dental visits, early orthodontic evaluations are one of the most important things you can do to help your child maintain their oral health. Preventive treatment that begins when they need it most can keep destructive bite patterns from worsening and lessen damage to the developing teeth. This can reduce the need for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult, and even if further treatment is required at a later date, it often takes less time and is more efficient.
Here at Nirenblatt Orthodontics, our goal is to provide a fun, stress-free, and exciting experience for our young patients in Charleston, Summerville, and the surrounding areas. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today. There’s no dental referral necessary to schedule a FREE virtual or in-office consultation with Dr. Nirenblatt, and we’d love to meet you both!