While many parents and caregivers are committed to providing regular dental check-ups for their children, it can come as a surprise to learn that early orthodontic evaluations are another important part of maintaining a child’s healthy smile. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that your child should see an orthodontist by age 7. That doesn’t mean we’re putting every first or second grader in braces, though! Here at Beim Orthodontics, we actually end up recommending immediate orthodontic treatment in just a fraction of the kids we see.
The reason this visit is so valuable is because it allows us to identify any present or developing orthodontic issues. By about age 7, most children have their permanent front teeth as well as the first set of adult molars. These are key dental “landmarks” and once they’ve grown in, an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Beim can identify how a child’s bite is likely to develop over the following years. Using panoramic x-ray, we can also identify if a child is missing any adult teeth and identify deviations from normal tooth eruption.
Let’s take a closer look at how early orthodontic examinations help children achieve and maintain a beautifully aligned smile!
Your child’s consultation & orthodontic evaluation
During this initial visit, Dr. Beim will check for several issues to determine if any treatment is necessary, whether now or in the future. This will allow him to discover, diagnose, and treat a variety of common problems before they have the chance to develop into something more serious.
When teeth are crooked, it can be hard to brush and floss them effectively. They also tend to be more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. Over a long enough period of time, this can affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue.
As the placeholders for our permanent teeth, the baby teeth are more important than you may think. They tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so any significant deviation from this may signal a developmental issue that requires further attention.
As we briefly mentioned above, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors by the age of 7. Any more or less than this could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth.
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 crowding is an issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Aside from being a cosmetic concern, front teeth that noticeably protrude can also increase the risk of potential injury to the permanent teeth. Speech issues may also occur.
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws, and involves the lower jaw growing too far forward.
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. A narrow upper jaw can be associated with a narrow nasal passage sometimes, too.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These are bite problems that occur vertically. 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 may indicate a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing issues.
What comes next?
Early orthodontic evaluations allow us to be proactive instead of reactive. That means kids get the orthodontic care they need at the most optimal time and in a way that meets their specific needs. This type of intervention is sometimes referred to as Phase I treatment, and it can achieve the kind of results that may be unattainable once a child’s face and jaws have finished growing. We will often use Phase I treatment to encourage jaw development that will:
- better accommodate all the permanent teeth
- improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together
- reduce the risk for tooth damage due to crowding, misalignment, or malformed jaws
We may use fixed or removable orthodontic appliances for a period of time to correct poor jaw growth, create space for developing teeth, and help the facial muscles develop normally. This treatment can be used with one or both jaws. Once Phase I treatment is complete, any appliances will be removed and we’ll begin a period of observation. Dr. Beim will monitor the teeth every 4-6 months or so during this, and may also recommend a retainer to keep the teeth stable.
Most Phase I patients will eventually need Phase II treatment, which will usually require braces or aligners to continue the stabilizing process and move the teeth into their final optimal positions. This will finalize the bite correction and create a beautiful smile!
Creating confident smiles at Beim Orthodontics
Here at Beim Orthodontics, we offer complimentary orthodontic consultations, so you have nothing to lose by bringing your child in for an initial exam! If we find that they don’t need orthodontist care, you’ll be invited back to our office every 6-12 months for a reevaluation appointment. These visits will allow us to keep up with your child’s growth and dental development, so that we can catch any emerging problems and treat them accordingly.
Preventive treatment that begins when a child needs it most can keep destructive bite patterns from worsening. It also helps lessen damage to the developing teeth, reducing the risk for extensive orthodontic treatment as an adult. If further treatment is required at a later date, it often takes less time and will be more efficient.
No dental referrals are necessary to see an orthodontic expert like Dr. Beim, though we will notify your dentist with the findings from our consultation. Along with early orthodontic evaluations, regular dental visits are one of the best ways to help your child achieve (and maintain) good oral health and a functional mouth!
If you’re in Lake Mary or the surrounding communities and have a child who is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today! We’d love to schedule you for a FREE virtual or in-office consultation with Dr. Beim and help you take the first steps toward your child’s best smile.