For many people, the only thing that comes to mind when you mention orthodontics is a teenager in a full set of traditional metal braces. This has been a really persistent stereotype through the years, so you may not realize that orthodontic treatment can actually benefit patients of all ages, from children to adults. As a matter of fact, the American Association of Orthodontists has recommended that all children have an early evaluation. That’s why your child see an orthodontist by age 7!
Lots of parents don’t know what to make of this recommendation. After all, seven is pretty young. At that age, most children still have developing mouths and many baby teeth left. But this is actually the point of early orthodontic evaluations! They give us the opportunity to catch any potential orthodontic issues before they have the chance to develop into something more serious. In doing so, we’re able to give kids the best chance at a lifetime of happy, healthy smiles.
Preventive care is really important, and here at Van Vliet Orthodontics, we’ve seen firsthand how it can transform a child’s smile. Starting treatment at the optimal time can also make a big difference to their overall oral health. If you have a young child ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at their dental development. During this evaluation, Dr. Van Vliet will be checking for a number of issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is recommended, whether now or in the future. To learn more about what he’ll be looking for, keep reading below!
When a child has crooked teeth, it’s harder for them to brush and floss effectively. They also make the teeth more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If misaligned teeth are left untreated over a long enough period of time, it can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. Although we’re able to successfully align teeth at any age, correcting them when children are younger can help prevent some of that excessive wear and tear, giving them a head start on a much healthier smile.
Crowding and spacing issues
Orthodontists like Dr. Van Vliet are trained to tell fairly early in a child’s life if they’re already experiencing problems with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth. They can also assess if they’re likely to develop these types of issues later on in life. Spacing issues 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.
Tooth loss and eruption
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of baby teeth since they all eventually fall out anyway. But they’re the placeholders for our permanent teeth, so where they’re located and when they come out actually matters more than you may think! Primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so any significant deviation from this pattern could signify a developmental issue that requires further attention from an experienced provider like Dr. Van Vliet.
By the age of seven, children should 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. In some cases, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early or we may want to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent bigger problems later on.
Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)
Cosmetic concerns aside, front teeth that obviously protrude can increase the risk of injury to the permanent teeth and cause possible speech issues as well. While we sometimes have to wait until a child’s mouth is closer to done growing before permanently correcting an overbite, there are still several things we can do to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury. This often results in an extra boost of self-esteem for the child, too!
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward. In these types of cases, we’ll often need to wait until the patient is close to being done growing to begin their treatment, usually during the teenage years.
Even if there’s a waiting period involved in resolving an underbite, early treatment is still important in order to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. We have various methods we can use to try and normalize the bite as early as possible. This includes something called “jumping the bite,” where we use braces or other appliances to get a start on a young child’s underbite before completing treatment in their teen years. In fact, underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of 7-10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older!
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. When we’re able to expand the upper jaw in earlier childhood, we can reduce crowding and create space for the front teeth to come through uninterrupted. Expansion can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw.
In some cases, a narrow upper jaw can be associated with a narrow nasal passage, and expansion can help improve breathing and nasal airflow while these patients are growing.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These bite problems occur vertically, and can usually be spotted by the time your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment. 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, which may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. If this is the case, our team will be happy to work with you and your child to eliminate destructive habits early on! This will help development to continue normally.
Give your child’s smile the best start with Van Vliet Orthodontics
Early orthodontic evaluations are one of the best things you can do to help your child achieve a healthy smile with long-lasting results! It’s worth noting that as a child gets older, their jaw bone growth begins to slow, and eventually stops altogether. Any orthodontic treatment performed after this point will often take more time and be more invasive.
Receiving the necessary orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent destructive bite patterns from getting worse or damaging the developing teeth. In turn, this can reduce the need for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult! Interceptive treatment can also make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient.
Van Vliet Orthodontics is proud to offer patients of all ages a positive, rewarding orthodontic experience in our Ramsey and Highland offices. We have a talented team who are committed to providing you and your child with the highest quality orthodontic care and world-class customer service! If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation. With no dental referral necessary, this is the perfect time to take the first step towards a healthy, happy smile for your child!