If you’re a parent or caregiver, you likely already know that regular dental visits are an important part of keeping your child’s smile happy and healthy. What you may not know is that orthodontic evaluations can play an essential role in oral health as well. In fact, many parents are unaware that this is even an option! The American Association of Orthodontists actually recommends all children have their first orthodontic evaluation at the age of seven. But why? This can be genuinely confusing since younger kids have mouths that are still developing with plenty of baby teeth left. That works to our advantage, though. Keep reading to find out why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7!
Here at Dietrich Orthodontics, we treat many young patients, and we’ve seen firsthand how beneficial early orthodontic evaluations can be. When an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Dietrich is able to examine a child’s mouth at this stage, he has the opportunity to:
- 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
Do you have a young child ready for an orthodontic evaluation? If so, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at their overall dental development. During this complimentary initial visit, Dr. Dietrich will check for issues to determine if any treatment is necessary, and when. To learn more about what he’ll be looking for and how preventive treatment works, keep reading below!
Your child’s consultation & orthodontic evaluation
As we briefly mentioned above, an early exam gives orthodontists the chance to discover, diagnose, and treat many common dental issues before they can develop into something more serious. When you bring your child in for a complimentary consultation, here is what Dr. Dietrich will be looking for.
Baby teeth are more important than you may think. They’re the placeholders for our permanent teeth, and tend to fall out in a fairly specific order. If your child is experiencing any significant deviation from this pattern, it 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 may 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.
Besides being a cosmetic concern, front teeth that noticeably protrude can 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. If managed early, we can potentially avoid needing jaw surgery later in development.
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 bite problems occur vertically. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting. In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This may be an indication that there’s a finger and/or thumb habit or airway issue, causing dental or skeletal problems.
Dr. Dietrich will evaluate if tonsils and adenoids are interfering with your child’s airway. The patient would be referred to an ENT if any issues are found. Untreated airway issues can result in undesirable or deficient mid-face development leading to such problems as underjet, open bite, or posterior crossbite.
During the Exam:
Dr. Dietrich may recommend early treatment (Phase 1) or he may recommend monitoring in our Kids Club! If monitoring is his recommendation, your child will enter our club, be checked by Dr. Dietrich, complimentary, at certain intervals to ensure growth and development is on track, and catch any minor (or major) issues before they become harder to fix. And, your child will enjoy our friendly, fun atmosphere with prizes, games and special parties just for them!
How preventive treatment works
Early orthodontic evaluations are a key part of maintaining your child’s oral health. They allow us to be proactive instead of reactive, helping to ensure they get the orthodontic care they need at the most optimal time and in the manner that meets their unique needs. We often refer to this type of intervention as Phase I treatment. This type of treatment can achieve excellent results that may be unattainable once the face and jaws have finished growing later on in a child’s life.
In general, we use Phase I treatment to help a child’s jaw develop in a way that will:
- better accommodate all the permanent teeth
- improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together
- 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 can be used with one or both jaws.
Once we complete Phase I treatment, any appliances will be removed and we’ll begin observing growth and development in our Kids Club. Dr. Dietrich will take a look at the developing permanent teeth every 8-10 months or so, and may recommend a retainer during this time for long-term stability. Most Phase I patients will eventually need Phase II treatment. This will continue the stabilizing process by moving the permanent teeth into their final optimal positions, and will usually require braces to finalize the bite correction and achieve a beautiful smile!
While Phase 1 treatment is certainly preferred in many cases, Dr. Dietrich only recommends 2 phases of treatment when absolutely necessary. Specifically, when damage will be done to the teeth or cannot be corrected later, or the end result will be better with 2 phases of treatment. Where possible, Dr. Dietrich prefers to use only 1 phase of braces, specific to your child’s growth pattern, saving you time and money!
Creating confident smiles at Dietrich Orthodontics
Along with regular dental visits, early orthodontic evaluations are one of the best ways to help your child achieve (and maintain) good oral health and a functional mouth. Preventive treatment that begins when a child needs it most can keep destructive bite patterns from worsening. It also helps lessen damage to the developing teeth, reducing the risk for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult. If further treatment is required at a later date, it often takes less time and is more efficient!
Dietrich Orthodontics works hard to provide our young patients and families with a fun, stress-free, and exciting experience. If you’re in Stark County and have a child who is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today! There’s no dental referral necessary to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Dietrich. We’d love to meet you both and help you take the first steps toward your child’s confident smile!