The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should have a full orthodontic evaluation by age 7. Why? Because at this stage of development, an orthodontist is able to do three important things:
Many parents end up ignoring crooked baby teeth because they assume a child will simply “grow out of it” as they fall out and the adult teeth emerge. In reality, the alignment of the baby teeth is extremely important to how straight (or not) the adult teeth come in. The baby teeth basically create the path for the adult teeth, so if that path is crooked, the incoming teeth will be, too.
A child’s baby teeth are also essential to the development of their jaws, and to an extent, their airway. Crooked baby teeth could lead to an underdeveloped dental arch (roof of the mouth), which in turn makes it difficult for a child to eat, speak, or even breathe properly while sleeping.
Despite all of these issues sounding rather dire, they can be easily corrected or avoided altogether by fixing problems in the baby teeth. This will help the adult teeth come in straighter and also guide the growth of the jaw so a child has a properly functioning airway. To do this, we apply what is called Phase One Pediatric Orthodontics.
It all starts with a brief exam with Dr. Fulks in which he’ll look at your child’s teeth and jaws, and he may choose to take some X-rays as well so he can get a look at their developing adult teeth. Depending on your child’s needs, he may have them wear a removable oral appliance designed to guide their incoming adult teeth, or he might place a device that is intended to break bad habits that can throw off the development of the mouth (i.e. thumb/digit sucking or tongue thrusting).
After your child receives their device or appliance, Dr. Fulks will regularly check them to monitor their progress. After a year or so, he’ll remove it, giving your child’s mouth time to “rest” before determining if they need Phase 2 Orthodontics, which will likely consist of something like traditional braces.
By addressing any problems your child might have early, we can straighten their current smile while safeguarding the health of their incoming one. Not only does this approach help improve a child’s overall appearance, but it’s also great for parents because they won’t have to invest in as much orthodontic care later!
If your child is 7 or older and they haven’t been in for an orthodontic evaluation yet, now is the time to schedule it. And, if your child already has noticeably crooked teeth, jaws, or oral function problems, you should bring them to see us even before age 7. By treating them early, we can basically make everyone’s lives easier in the process! Your child will be happier, healthier, and you’ll save untold dollars as well. To us, that’s a win for everyone!
To learn more about early-age orthodontics or schedule your child’s consultation, contact us today.