November 20, 2019
Although most parents know how important it is to initiate regular dental visits for children at a young age, many don’t realize that early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of a child’s oral health, too. They’re so important, in fact, that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child have one by the time they’re about 7 years old!
If you have a child around this age, you might find yourself confused by this recommendation. After all, most younger children still have developing mouths and a large number of baby teeth remaining, right? As it turns out, that’s actually the point! When combined with regular growth and development checks, these evaluations let us catch orthodontic issues in the early stages. This can prevent them from having a negative impact on the teeth and bite later on, giving them the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Here at Hidden Smiles Orthodontics, we work with patients of all ages, including children. This has allowed us to see up close and personal how early evaluations, monitoring, and treatment can benefit a child’s oral health. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to meet you both and take a look at how their dental development is going! During this initial consultation, Dr. Parikh will be looking for signs of a variety of different orthodontic issues. Let’s explore what they are, why they matter to your child’s smile, and what we can do about them!
Tooth loss and eruption
Lots of people don’t pay much attention to baby teeth, especially since they all fall out eventually, anyway. But as the placeholders for our permanent teeth, where they’re located and when they’re lost matters more than you may think. Primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so if Dr. Parikh notices a significant deviation from this pattern, it could signal a developmental issue requiring more attention.
By the time they’re ready for an orthodontic evaluation, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has any more or less than this, it could indicate that there may be missing, crowded, or extra teeth that require additional monitoring by Dr. Parikh.
Crowding and spacing
As an experienced orthodontist, Dr. Parikh will be able to tell if a young child is having problems with excessive crowding or spacing. She’ll also be able to determine if this is likely to be an issue in the future. Spacing issues can arise if a tooth has been lost prematurely, if one has never developed, or when the teeth are too small or narrow. If crowding is causing a problem, we can often address it by extracting certain primary teeth. In more severe cases, we may choose to use dental arch development and expansion.
Crooked teeth pose several challenges for children. Not only are they more difficult to clean thoroughly, they’re also more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If left untreated over time, this can compromise the surrounding gum tissue. Eventually, it may even change the shape and position of the gum line. Although we can successfully align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on correcting certain malocclusions can give your child a head start on a healthy mouth.
Front teeth that obviously protrude are often seen as a cosmetic concern, but the effects of an overbite pattern go beyond appearances. Patients may experience pain in the jaw, excessive tooth wear, and they can even have trouble with normal speech patterns.
We’ll usually wait until a child’s mouth has matured a bit more before attempting to correct an overbite, but there are still a number of treatment options for reducing the risk of pain and traumatic injury as they grow. These corrective measures can also improve a child’s confidence in their smile.
When a child has an underbite, we need to determine whether the malocclusion is caused by problems with the eruption of the teeth or by the relationship of the jaws. This means that we sometimes need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin comprehensive treatment. However, earlier measures can be taken to help avoid damage to the front teeth and encourage skeletal correction. Underbite patients who receive treatment between the ages of about 7-10 tend to be less likely to need corrective jaw surgery when they are older.
A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding, reduced airway function, and may cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood is more predictable, and also requires less pressure with less invasive appliances. Treating a posterior crossbite can help eliminate shifts in the bite that can lead to asymmetric jaw growth, will reduce crowding, and can also create space for the permanent teeth to erupt. Treatment can even improve the quality of a child’s airway.
Anterior Open Bites
In an anterior open bite, the front teeth do not overlap enough. This often results in poor function along with excessive wear on the back teeth. It can be caused by oral habits such as extended finger or thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or if a child uses a bottle or pacifier for too long.
In cases like these, we’ll be happy to work with both you and your child to help eliminate any destructive habits early on. This will allow their dental development to continue normally.
Improve your child’s oral health with Hidden Smiles Orthodontics
Once you understand everything that goes into an early orthodontic evaluation, it’s easy to see the role they play in a child’s oral health. Even if no treatment is indicated for your child, you’ll still have peace of mind knowing our expert team is monitoring their growth and dental development as they grow!
Here at Hidden Smiles Orthodontics, we’re proud to provide a positive and stress-free orthodontic experience to patients of all ages. We also offer a wide range of orthodontic services for the entire family. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Pirakh and take the first step towards a lifetime of beautiful smiles.