What is the Right Age for A Child’s First Orthodontic Consultation?

Orthodontic treatments are synonymous with teenagers as on average, 8 out of every 10 people using braces are in their teenage years. This doesn’t mean orthodontic treatments aren’t needed by the remaining age groups, but teenage years are most popular due to the misconceptions that a child must have permanent teeth before he/she begins treatment. It is however important to note that getting orthodontic treatments early on in a child’s life will aid easy correction of misaligned teeth or jaws. But at what age is it right for a child to visit an orthodontist for his/her first consultation?

American Association of Orthodontists and Early Orthodontic Consultation

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, children should “have their first check-up with an orthodontist no later than age 7.” The reason being that it is easier to identify and correct the problems from this early age. At this age, the baby teeth will be falling off and the permanent ones coming on, making it the best time to identify if they will be needing orthodontic treatments or not. If they do need it, it is easier to correct the misalignment at that age with the aid of child braces or Invisalign® teen among other treatment choices. However, if your child is above the age of 7 and has never seen an orthodontist, you can still visit one as it is never too late to consult orthodontics, book a consultation with Dr Kalange HERE.

Advantages of Consulting an Orthodontist at an Early Age

There are many benefits of consulting with an orthodontist at a very tender age, these include;

1. Early Identification of Problems

It is guaranteed that taking your child to the orthodontist at an early age for consultation will allow for early identification of any problems s/he might have. During the consultation, the orthodontist will listen to every complaint you and your child might have. Then, the orthodontist will evaluate your child’s dentition before carrying out imaging to see the intraoral and extra-oral details of his/her teeth. With this, the doctor can tell if braces for kids will be prescribed for your child or not, how long the treatment will take, what treatment options are available, etc. Not every child taken to the orthodontist for consultation will eventually need treatment but knowing that a child’s future is safe will not harm.

2. Avoid Wearing Teeth Retainer for the Rest of His/Her Life

Some extreme cases of teeth misalignment might require the patient to keep his/her teeth retainer forever. Even if s/he doesn’t wear them everyday, at least twice a week and at night. But if the correction were made from when the jaws were flexible and they were moved into new positions, there won’t be fear of shifting back to the original position. Hence, no need to wear a teeth retainer forever.

3. Less Extreme Treatment

As we grow, our jawbones get tougher which makes it harder to change their shapes and tend to call for extreme measures during treatment. Because a 7-year-old child’s jawbones are still very much flexible when compared with that of an adult who has developed rigid jawbones, treatment is less extreme in the former compared to the latter. This early treatment can result in a shorter treatment duration at the latter stage while also decreasing the severity of the malocclusion. Also, instead of having to wear braces for kids.

4. To Avoid Severe Treatment in Phase 2

Phase 2 of orthodontic treatment is used for complex cases that could not be solved with phase 1. While phase 1 begins when a child still has some baby teeth, phase 2 begins when almost all the teeth are permanent. Baby teeth are easier to shift compared to permanent teeth and to ensure that the teeth are shifted in phase 2, severe orthodontic treatments are employed.

Notable Causes of Malocclusion and Orthodontic Problems in Children

  1. Tongue Thrust Habit: Children develop the habit of thrusting their tongue against their teeth which can cause malformed teeth overtime. This habit can be caused by some pacifiers and bottles used in feeding them from birth.
  2. Mouth Breathing Habit: When a child is trying to breathe with an obstruction in his/her nose or pharynx, s/he resorts to breathing through the mouth. This is an oral habit that if not corrected can cause low position of the tongue in the mouth floor and increased vertical facial height.
  3. Thumb Sucking Habit: Children tend to suck their thumbs right from infancy in order to calm themselves. If this habit isn’t corrected early, it can cause life-long negative effects like open bite and speech impediment which will then require braces for kids or Invisalign® teens for correction.
  4. Prolonged Use of Pacifiers: Just like in thumb sucking, pacifiers are used to calm children down and satisfy their instincts to suck. However, a prolonged use of the pacifier can result in protrusion of front teeth or improper bite which can only be corrected by a braces doctor.

All the listed causes above are generally referred to as incorrect myofunctional habits and if quickly diagnosed by the orthodontist, they can be treated with myofunctional appliances instead of the regular braces for kids. Treatment with myofunctional appliances uses several techniques in correcting jaw position conditions like retrognathic mandible, which is a situation where the upper jaw is further ahead than the lower jaw. It also focuses on these poor habits and uses forces to align the teeth. The forces come at intervals unlike the constant pressure in braces for kids, making the treatment more comfortable. Other treatment options include palatal expander to correct narrow upper jaw,  palatal crib to correct tongue thrusting and thumb sucking and also space maintainers to prevent closure of spaces created by early exfoliation of milk teeth.

If you notice some or all of the above signs and symptoms in your child, consult an orthodontist for evaluation. In conclusion, it is best and recommended to have your child’s teeth checked from the tender age of 7 to avoid future complications and ensure your child keeps smiling for a lifetime without the help of braces. If your child is older than 7, you can still go for a check-up at an orthodontist as it is never too late, book a consultation with Dr Kalange HERE.