When Should My Child See an Orthodontist About Their Crooked Teeth?

When Should My Child See an Orthodontist About Their Crooked Teeth?

When many people think of braces, they conjure up an image of a teen with un-subtle metal braces, but orthodontics today is so much more than that! Adults are getting treated at an ever-growing rate, and so are younger children.

You might wonder if an orthodontist should evaluate your child under 10, and the answer is “yes,” for several reasons we’ll discuss. 

The Embassy Row Orthodontics team, headed up by Dr. Wayne Hickory, assesses people of all ages for orthodontic care, from elementary school students on up. The goal is simple — to give you a healthy, beautiful smile. The range of treatments we have at our disposal to reach those goals is vast, allowing us to offer highly customized treatment. 

I’m noticing my young child has crooked teeth — is it too early for the orthodontist?

No, it isn’t. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that an orthodontist initially evaluate children at seven years of age

Just a few decades ago, consultations at this age weren’t standard, and patients were typically seen at 12. It was also standard practice to extract 2-4 permanent premolar teeth in over half of those patients. Thanks to early orthodontic intervention, that number has plummeted to less than 5%

That might sound young, but by that age, your child’s mouth has a sufficient number of permanent teeth for an orthodontist to learn a lot — and create a treatment plan if necessary — so no brewing problems get worse in the next few years. 

When you bring your child to see Dr. Hickory for the first time, he looks for quite a few issues during the examination:

Dr. Hickory also uses panoramic X-rays to investigate your child’s oral development more deeply, as issues like impacted teeth, teeth that appear to be moving into the wrong positions, and other problems invisible to the naked eye. 

What can the orthodontist do regarding early age treatment for my child?

If Dr. Hickory recommends that your child get treated at this stage, it’s called Phase 1 treatment, done when a child still has baby teeth. It offers many advantages and prevents dealing with more complex orthodontic issues down the road.

Phase 1 treatment allows Dr. Hickory to help guide your child’s facial and jaw bone growth so that they have ample room in their mouth to accommodate their permanent teeth. It also helps these adult teeth avoid ending up in a “holding pattern” in terms of coming through, and when they erupt, they do so in the correct location. 

Alignment issues are also related to other oral health problems, so treating them as soon as possible is essential. They can prevent your child from keeping their teeth as clean as possible, and wear-and-tear on certain teeth due to pressure can develop. 

Getting your child early treatment also enables Dr. Hickory, if necessary, to alter your child’s jaw structure by using orthodontic appliances. These include:

This is an opportunity your child shouldn’t miss because once their jaw finishes growing, these appliances cannot help. Then, the only treatment option available is surgery. If you can avoid that eventuality for your child, all the better. 

Children who need treatment often start using an expander, followed by either braces or Invisalign® when they reach adolescence. Then a 12- to 18-month period wearing a retainer, so no regression occurs.

Another advantage to early orthodontic treatment: Potential dollars savedThough your child might need multi-phase treatment that stretches into adolescence, early phase treatment still makes financial sense. There’s the possibility that your child won’t need a second phase of treatment, and your Phase 1 investment is all you’ll need to make. But early phase treatment, as we’ve mentioned, can make later phase treatment, if needed, less complex. 

Your child’s smile has brightened your life since the day they were born. Let us ensure that it will keep on shining as they grow! We now know that orthodontic assessment and treatment during childhood makes for an easier and faster correction experience and minimize future problems.

Call our Dupont Circle office to make an appointment at 202-342-9600, or use our convenient online booking tool.

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