When Should Kids See an Orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends kids see an orthodontist for an evaluation by age 7. That’s because orthodontists are trained to spot subtle issues with jaw growth and emerging permanent teeth, which typically begin to appear once the first permanent molars are in around the age of 7. In the vast majority of cases, everything will look great and we’ll continue to monitor your child over the years and let you know when the time is right to start treatment. We very rarely treat children at age 7 at our practice. However, if early orthodontic treatment is necessary, intercepting the problem early on can prevent the need for lengthy treatment, extractions or even surgery down the road.
Why Age 7?
- Most kids have their first permanent molars at this age, which establish the back of the bite and let us evaluate a child’s side-to-side and back-to-front tooth relationships.
- Even if the teeth appear straight, there can be a problem with the bite that an orthodontist has the expertise to detect.
- If treatment isn’t needed, early visits give us a baseline. From there, kids will have yearly check-ups. This allows Dr. Gardner and Dr. Tang to pinpoint the ideal time to start treatment when your child is older in order to get the best results as efficiently as possible.
- When early orthodontic treatment is indicated, we can often achieve outcomes that wouldn’t be possible when the jaw and face are done growing. By intercepting issues early, we prevent them from becoming full-blown problems that require extensive treatment.
8 Reasons Your Child May Need Early Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment Around the Age of 7:
- Oral habits (finger or thumb sucking, tongue thrusting or mouth breathing)
- Early or late loss of baby teeth or problems with teeth coming in (may only be visible on an x-ray)
- Protruding upper front teeth, which may be at an increased risk of trauma
- Severe crowding of the front or back teeth
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Crossbite of the front teeth (may cause trauma to the edges of the front teeth or, in severe cases, indicate an unfavorable growth pattern)
- Crossbite of the back teeth (may cause the jaw to shift and/or grow off to one side)
- An appearance your child is embarrassed by
What are the Benefits of Early Orthodontics for Kids?
When kids do exhibit red flags indicating the need for intervention, early orthodontic treatment, also known as phase 1 orthodontic treatment, can have enormous benefits, including:
- Correcting facial asymmetry by guiding jaw growth
- Fixing crossbites
- Alleviating the crowding of teeth
- Reducing the risk of injury by shifting protruding teeth back
- Creating adequate space for the permanent teeth to come in as straight as possible
- Making treatment in the teenage years faster, easier and more affordable
- Preventing the need for extractions of the permanent teeth
- Reducing the likelihood a patient will require corrective jaw surgery
- Breaking oral habits, including tongue thrust, thumb sucking and finger sucking
- Improving chewing, speaking and breathing
- Boosting confidence and self-esteem
- A spectacular smile!
When our amazing 7-year-old patient Isabelle visited Gardner Orthodontics, we diagnosed her with an underbite.
What is an Underbite and Why is Early Intervention Needed?
An underbite is when the lower teeth sit in front of the upper teeth. Since the problem is skeletal in nature, if it’s not treated while a patient is still growing, corrective jaw surgery may be needed. Thankfully, Isabelle had an orthodontic evaluation by age 7 and we were to intercept her emerging bite issue.
Our Treatment Plan
Using a virtual, 3D model of Isabelle’s mouth and cutting-edge software, Dr. Gardner created a personalized treatment plan to guide Isabelle’s jaw growth and encourage the permanent teeth to erupt properly. A series of custom Invisalign® aligners was created for Isabelle based on Dr. Gardner’s specifications. We paired her clear aligners with Invisalign rubber bands. The aligners will move Isabelle’s teeth into position, while the rubber bands will provide the connective forces to shift the jaw into place and correct Isabelle’s bite.
While many orthodontists would have opted for phase 1 braces or cumbersome appliances to correct an underbite, at Gardner Orthodontics, we’re a Diamond Plus Invisalign Provider and among the top 1% of providers in the country when it comes to case experience. This means, thanks to our knowledge, we’re able to offer Invisalign for kids like Isabelle and use clear aligners for phase 1 orthodontic treatment.
A Happy Phase 1 Orthodontic Patient
So far, Isabelle is loving her treatment and happy her family chose Invisalign over braces. Invisalign for kids can be more convenient and comfortable since the aligners are smooth, custom-molded, virtually invisible and removable. Little ones can brush and floss as normal and continue to eat all of the foods they love. We look forward to seeing Isabelle’s progress and watching her healthy, beautiful smile take shape!
What Happens at a Child’s First Orthodontist Appointment?
Aside from having a fantastic time, at your child’s first orthodontic evaluation, they’ll:
Take the Grand Tour
Our friendly team will greet you and your child. We’ll make sure we have all of the information we need, and then we’ll show you around the office.
Have Diagnostic Records Taken
A team member will take diagnostic records, including digital photos and digital, low-dose, 3D x-rays with our i-CAT™ imaging system. These x-rays let Dr. Gardner and Dr. Tang see every aspect of your child’s dental and facial anatomy, while exposing them to the least amount of radiation possible.
Receive an Exam
Dr. Gardner or Dr. Tang will perform a thorough examination to assess your child’s teeth, facial structures and bite. They’ll ask you about things like oral habits, losing baby teeth and getting permanent teeth, as well as any concerns you may have. This information will help them develop an accurate diagnosis, if there is one.
Sit Down With the Doctor
Our Richmond orthodontist will sit down with you and your child. They’ll use the x-rays and images to walk you through any findings. In most cases, kids won’t need treatment just yet and they’ll come in for their next complimentary check-up in about a year. If we do think your child could benefit from phase 1 orthodontic treatment, Dr. Gardner or Dr. Tang will explain their diagnosis, present you with personalized treatment recommendations and answer all of your questions.
We Make Early Visits Super Fun!
Our orthodontic offices are bright and kid-friendly. Your child will feel relaxed and at ease. Our team members are approachable, welcoming and well versed in treating kiddos. Hey, Dr. Gardner is even a children’s author! To sweeten the deal for little ones, when they visit Gardner Orthodontics, they’ll get to join our awesome Kid’s Club and score all sorts of fun perks. To schedule your child’s complimentary orthodontic evaluation in Richmond, call us at (804) 282-0505 or text us at (804) 577-1171.