Here at Stacy Wolf Orthodontics, we create beautiful smiles for patients of all ages! Because we see children in addition to teens and adults, we often hear from parents who want to know when they should bring their child in for their first orthodontic visit. It comes as a surprise to many of them that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children have an orthodontic evaluation by about the age of 7! That’s why we’re taking a look at why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7 and all the benefits that come with an early evaluation.
While most parents are familiar with the importance of dental check-ups for maintaining a child’s healthy smile, it’s not always obvious why orthodontic visits play a similar role. In fact, we’ve even been asked why this recommendation exists, considering kids that age have mouths that are still developing and plenty of baby teeth left. As we tell them—that’s the point!
Remember that an evaluation won’t always equal treatment. We actually recommend immediate treatment for only a small fraction of the younger patients we see, but these visits are still valuable. Why? Because they give us time to diagnose any issues and customize a treatment plan based on that child’s specific smile needs as they grow. An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Wolf will use dental “landmarks” that children have to identify the way their bite is likely to develop as they get older. This allows her to begin treatment as necessary and at the most opportune time.
If you have a child around 7 who is ready for their first orthodontic visit, you may be a little unsure about what to expect or what comes next. Our team is here to help! Let’s explore what happens during an orthodontic evaluation and what will happens after that initial visit.
What happens during an early orthodontic evaluation with Dr. Wolf?
Our main focus during your child’s first orthodontic visit is assessing their oral health and development. Dr. Wolf will be checking for any problems that could signal treatment is warranted, either now or in the future. By identifying these early on, we’ll be able to correct problems before they have the chance to develop into something more serious. There are several common orthodontic issues Dr. Wolf will be looking for, including the following.
Aside from the cosmetic impact of crooked teeth, they can also be harder to clean and are more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If these issues are left untreated over time, it can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue.
Our primary teeth are the placeholders for our permanent teeth, so they matter more than you may think! They also tend to fall out in a pretty specific order. If Dr. Wolf notices any significant deviation from that pattern, it may signal a developmental issue that requires further attention.
These problems can occur when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or if a child has teeth that are too small or spaced too far apart.
We expect most children to have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors by around the age of 7. Any more or less than this could indicate a potential problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth.
Front teeth that noticeably protrude may be viewed as primarily a cosmetic concern, but they can also increase the risk of potential injury to the permanent teeth and affect a child’s speech.
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. This usually involves the lower jaw growing too far forward, or the upper jaw growing deficiently.
A posterior crossbite can cause crowding and may cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other so the top and bottom teeth can fit together. A narrow upper jaw can also be associated with a narrow nasal passage.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These bite problems 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. With an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough.
What happens after a child has had their first orthodontic evaluation?
One reason early evaluations are so great is because they allow us to approach a child’s orthodontic care in a proactive way instead of simply reacting. This gives us the opportunity to provide them with the care and treatment needed when they most need it.
This approach is referred to as Phase I treatment, and we often initiate it in order to achieve results we may not be able to obtain once a child’s face and jaw have stopped growing. This helps encourage proper jaw development, which will in turn:
- better accommodate the permanent teeth when they come in
- improve how the upper and lower jaws fit together
- reduce the risk of damage due to untreated issues
During Phase I treatment, Dr. Wolf will often use fixed or removable orthodontic appliances for a specific period of time, depending on the patient’s needs. We can do this with one or both jaws. Using orthodontic appliances at this time in a child’s life helps correct poor jaw growth, creates space for developing teeth, and allows the facial muscles to develop more normally.
After this initial phase of treatment is complete, Dr. Wolf will remove the appliance and we’ll begin a period of observation. During this time, the child may be given a retainer in order to keep their teeth stable. Our team will monitor their mouth every 4-6 months or so to keep an eye on how things are developing.
Since most Phase I patients will eventually need Phase II treatment to continue the stabilizing process, braces or aligners are often used to move the teeth into their final improved positions. This completes the bite correction process and leaves the patient with a smile that is beautifully aligned and fully functional!
Find your child’s best smile at Stacy Wolf Orthodontics
Scheduling an early evaluation with an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Wolf is one of the best things you can do for your child’s smile! If there’s no indication that immediate treatment is necessary, we’ll invite you to continue visiting our office every 6-12 months so our team can continue monitoring their smile as they grow. By doing so, we’re able to catch and treat any emerging issues early on. These recall visits are always free of charge at our Bayside office!
If your child is ready for their first orthodontic visit, we’d love to meet you both. Get in touch today to schedule their FREE evaluation with Dr. Wolf and help them take the first step towards a lifetime of healthy smiles!