When it comes to caring for your child’s smile, you’re probably already aware that regular dental visits and cleanings are an important part of oral health. What you may not know is that orthodontic evaluations also play an essential role in achieving healthy teeth! Here at Sohn Orthodontics, we treat patients of all ages, including many young children. If you’re a parent or caregiver, this may confuse you. After all, most kids still have developing mouths and a lot of their baby teeth left. But this is actually why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that your child should see an orthodontist by age 7!
When an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Sohn is able to evaluate a child’s mouth early on, potential issues can be diagnosed before they have time to develop into something more serious. Doing so allows us to take a “watch and wait” approach, or look at various age-appropriate treatment that can:
- correct and guide jaw growth to help the permanent teeth come in straight
- regulate the width of the upper and lower arches
- create more space for crowded teeth
- help avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions later
- help correct bad oral habits and improve minor speech problems
Do you have a young child the right age for their first orthodontic evaluation? If so, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at their dental development! During this initial visit with us, Dr. Sohn will be keeping an eye out for several potential issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is recommended at any point. Keep reading to learn more about what she’ll be looking for!
If you’ve ever dealt with crooked teeth yourself, you’ll already know that they can be difficult to brush and floss effectively. They’re also more susceptible to uneven wear and tear, which can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue. Although we can successfully align teeth at just about any age, correcting this when a child is younger helps prevent some of that strain and will also give them a head start on a healthy smile.
Crowding and spacing
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 it’s crowding that’s an issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth. Orthodontists are usually able to spot cases of excessive crowding or spacing when a child is fairly young.
Tooth loss and eruption
You may think baby teeth are no big deal. They all fall out eventually, anyway, right? But as the placeholders for our permanent teeth, where they’re located and when they come out is actually a pretty big deal. Because kids tend to lose their teeth in a fairly specific pattern, any significant deviation from that could signify a developmental issue that requires further attention from an orthodontist like Dr. Sohn.
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)
There are some obvious cosmetic concerns with noticeably protruding front teeth, but they can also increase the risk of injury to the permanent teeth. Speech issues are a possibility, as well. We sometimes have to wait until a child’s mouth is done growing before permanently correcting an overbite, there are still several things we can do to help reduce the risk of traumatic injury in the meantime.
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. Some research has shown that 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. Sometimes a narrow upper jaw can be associated with a narrow nasal passage. In cases like these, expansion can help improve breathing and nasal airflow as the patient grows.
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. This can indicate that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. We can work with you and your child to eliminate any destructive habits early on so their development can continue normally.
Find your child’s best smile at Sohn Orthodontics
Like regular dental visits and cleanings, early orthodontic evaluations are one of the easiest ways to help your child achieve and maintain a healthy, happy smile! When we’re able to provide preventive care, destructive bite patterns can be prevented from getting worse and damaging the developing teeth. In many cases, this also reduces the need for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult. Even if further treatment is required later on in life, it will often take less time and be more efficient.
The talented team here at Sohn Orthodontics are proud to provide our younger patients with a fun and stress-free orthodontic experience, from start to finish. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Sohn, online or in the office. No dental referral is necessary to take the first step towards your child’s best smile!