When should my child visit the orthodontist?
Updated: Jan 23
If you’re the parent of a young child, chances are you've noticed a lot of other children with braces or other orthodontic appliances. A great deal of research has gone into the proper timing of orthodontic treatment and when treatment should start to maximize the health and cosmetic benefits of a straight smile. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, every child should have an orthodontic consultation by the age of 7 years old. For most patients, this initial exam is a way for Dr. Bloom to check the child’s growth and development and to make sure there are no significant issues to address. Some issues related to growth are best addressed when the child is still young and the bones are still rapidly growing and changing.
What to expect at your child’s first visit
To begin the consultation process, Dr. Bloom will need to take some important diagnostic records. Those records include:
Photographs. We know these look like mug shots, but these photos are a critical component of the diagnostic process. Orthodontics is more than just straight teeth. Dr. Bloom will use his artistic eye to evaluate the position of the teeth, lips and chin to determine if the patient’s profile and smile line are ideal or if they can be improved with orthodontic treatment.
X-rays. In our office, we typically take two x-rays (also called radiographs) to evaluate the position of the teeth, the health of the roots, the size of the jaws, and if there are any hidden surprises in the jawbones. Dr. Bloom can also get a general sense of the overall growth of the patient, particularly related to their growth potential and which growth stage they are in.
3D Scan. This is everyone’s favorite part! Using our advanced 3D scanner, we can generate a 3D model of your teeth that we will use us to clearly see everything in your child’s mouth. Unlike x-rays, this scanner uses no radiation. Rather, it will take hundreds of pictures of your child’s teeth and stitches them together in real-time. The 3D model will be used during the consultation process to explain all of Dr. Bloom’s findings and to answer all your questions about orthodontic treatment.
7 Orthodontic Conditions to Watch Out For (and when they need to be corrected)
Although everyone wants straight teeth for their child, the truth is that we all experience an “ugly duckling” phase of childhood. That’s ok! However, there are a few issues that must be corrected as early as possible to avoid bigger problems down the road. If these conditions are not corrected they can lead to uneven wear of the teeth, gum recession, root damage, or insufficient space for the remaining adult teeth. Let’s explain these conditions and why they should be corrected as early as possible
1. Small Palate
A narrow or undersized palate is a clinical condition that has become a popular topic of discussion and has been featured in many books related to breathing and the airway. If the palate is undersized, we often find that there is insufficient room for the growing adult teeth, the child may have difficulty breathing through their nose, they may have a posterior crossbite (discussed below) and/or the lower teeth may be tipped inward toward the tongue.
2. Posterior Crossbite
Ideally, the width of the upper jaw should be greater than the lower, so that when we bite down our top jaw fits over the lower like a lid on a jar. If the upper teeth are tucked under the lower teeth, we call that a crossbite. Dr. Bloom often finds that when a patient has a posterior crossbite (a crossbite of the back teeth) the patient will often slide their jaw to the left or right to find a comfortable chewing position. However, that can lead to lead to asymmetrical jaw growth or other issues which are very difficult to correct later on.
If a child has an underbite, that can either mean the top jaw is too far back and needs more forward growth, the lower jaw is too far forward, or the new adult teeth have grown into an unfavorable position. There are many ways to correct an underbite in a young child and Dr. Bloom will discuss those options with you based on your child’s needs.
4. Open bite
An open bite means that when the child bites down their front teeth do not come together. This is often the result of thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. A tongue thrust means that when the patient swallows, they subconsciously push their tongue forward, between their teeth, instead of up to the roof of their mouth. If the tongue is sitting between the front teeth, it will hinder the eruption or growth of the front teeth and not allow them to fully grow down into their proper position.
5. Missing teeth
Due to a variety of genetic and environmental factors, more and more patients learn at their first consultation that they are congenitally missing one or more adult teeth. If they’re lucky it may just be a missing wisdom tooth! However, it may be a tooth that affects their smile or overall dental health. While this may not require an early phase of orthodontic treatment, parents have found it useful to talk about what their options are for future treatment based on which tooth/teeth are missing.
6. Severe crowding
Significant crowding, or lack of space for the teeth, in young patients can be caused by small jaws, large teeth, premature loss of baby teeth, or a combination of many factors. In some cases, by noticing severe crowding early in childhood, Dr. Bloom can employ a few techniques to increase the available space so the adult can grow into the mouth properly.
7. Impacted teeth An impacted tooth is one that is not growing into its correct position and is headed in the wrong direction. Sometimes these impacted teeth can become stuck in the jaw bone or can cause damage to the roots of the adjacent teeth.
In our practice, we believe that a single phase of orthodontic treatment is often the best course of action for most patients. However, paying attention to the seven orthodontic conditions above and treating them in a two-phase approach may be the best approach. By treating these conditions early in development, we can often improve the child’s chances of an excellent orthodontic outcome without the need for more invasive treatment plans such as tooth extractions or other surgical procedures.
If you are unsure whether your child fits into any of the categories above, contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation and discuss your questions and concerns with Dr. Bloom. He always loves talking about orthodontics even if your child is not ready yet, or doesn’t require any treatment at all. Call us today at 720-743-0700 or click on the contact link in the menu bar above.