According to the American Association of Orthodontists, you should expect to have your child’s initial orthodontic evaluation right around the age of seven. While this will be different depending on the child in question, it’s a good rule of thumb to give you an indication of exactly what to expect.
If your child starts to exhibit bite-related issues or similar problems earlier than that, it’s always okay to take your child to see a dental professional as needed. But overall, you really shouldn’t take your child to the orthodontist any LATER than the age of seven for the best possible results.
What Kind of Orthodontic Care Might Be Recommended for My Child?
Maybe the most common type of orthodontic care frequently recommended for children is traditional braces – something most of us out there are familiar with.
With traditional braces, small metal brackets are secured on each tooth. Using a metal wire, the brackets are connected. The wire is what pulls the teeth into the ideal position over time. Periodically during treatment, your orthodontist may adjust the strength of that wire to make sure that everything is proceeding exactly as it should be, and so that you and your child don’t have to deal with any unfortunate (and ultimately unnecessary) delays.
What if My Child Does Not Need Early Orthodontic Treatment?
Even if your child doesn’t need early orthodontic treatment, it’s still a good idea to see an orthodontist for the first time using the guidelines outlined above. Oftentimes the peace-of-mind that comes with this alone is more than worth the effort for most parents.
But the most important thing to understand is that even when a child doesn’t need early orthodontic intervention, an orthodontist can still carefully monitor their growth and development – beginning treatment at exactly the right moment to make sure that they have the perfect smile they both want and deserve.
Does My Dentist Need to Refer Me to an Orthodontist?
If your child is already seeing a dentist, it’s quite common for this person to refer the child to an orthodontist when they feel the need for treatment has arrived. Having said that, it is not expressly necessary that an orthodontist has a referral from a dentist to diagnose and treat issues like an overbite or an underbite. It’s not required, and nothing is stopping you from “shopping around” to see if you can find someone that you and your child are comfortable with.
In other words, just because your dentist refers you to a particular orthodontist does not mean you have to go with that person if you don’t want to.
How Can I Tell if My Child Might Need Braces?
Your orthodontist will be able to give you a better idea of whether or not your child needs braces during your initial consultation. Even if your child’s teeth aren’t crowded or if they don’t have teeth that are spaced too far apart, braces may still be necessary to correct any bite-related issues moving forward.
Therefore, the early evaluation of your child provides both timely detection of problems AND a greater opportunity for a more effective treatment across the board.
What Will Happen During Our First Visit? Will My Child Need Treatment?
Answering the second part of that question is exactly what the first question is designed to do. During your first visit, your orthodontist will perform a thorough examination of your child’s mouth – likely including x-rays and other techniques of that nature – to get the most complete picture possible regarding the situation moving forward.
Why Does My Child Need to See an Orthodontist?
For the sake of argument, let’s say that your child doesn’t necessarily need braces right now – but they will someday. Not only does going to an orthodontist help confirm this, but quick intervention is also a great way to guide growth and development in the right direction. In essence, this is proactive – it’s all about addressing small issues now before they become more serious problems down the road.
But as a parent, there’s no way to tell this on your own. You lack access to the type of equipment necessary to make the most informed decisions possible. Your orthodontist, on the other hand, DOES have access to this equipment (and to a lifetime of training, as well) and can help give you an indication of the exact situation that you’re dealing with and what will be necessary to guarantee the best results possible for your child.
Should We Wait to See the Orthodontist Until My Child Has All of His/Her Permanent Teeth?
This is another rule of thumb that is a very good one to follow. Most people wait to have their child see an orthodontist until all of his or her permanent teeth come in because it will be far easier to see exactly what types of issues the child is going to be dealing with in the future.
How Will Orthodontic Treatment Help My Child?
By the age of seven, the first adult molars will appear in your child’s mouth – thus establishing the back bite. When you take your child to an orthodontist during this time, he or she will be able to evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. They’ll also be able to get a better indication of problems that the child might face in the future.
The presence of erupting incisors, for example, can indicate a possible overbite, an open bite, crowding, or even “gummy” smiles. The earlier on in your child’s life this is detected, the earlier on treatment can begin. Timely screening in this fashion ultimately increases the chances for an incredible smile in a very dramatic way – which, for most children and their parents, is the most important benefit of all.