Did you know that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children have an orthodontic evaluation by around the age of 7? This often comes as a surprise to parents and caregivers, since younger kids still have developing mouths and plenty of baby teeth, but these early evaluations have an important role to play in keeping a child’s smile healthy and happy. Keep reading to find our more on why your child should see an orthodontist by age 7!
Don’t make the mistake of thinking these appointments automatically equal braces treatment, however. Here at Williams & Hamman Orthodontics, we rarely recommend immediate orthodontic treatment for young children, but these visits are still valuable. That’s because they allow us to assess a child for orthodontic issues, whether they’re already present or at risk of developing.
By the age of 7, most kids will have their permanent front teeth, as well as the first set of adult molars. You may hear these referred to as the “six year molars” from time to time! At this point in a child’s dental development, an experienced orthodontist will be able to identify how their bite is likely to progress as they grow. Panoramic x-rays can assist us with this. If our doctors notice any of the following when they examine your child, it could signify and issue that merits further attention.
- Early or late loss of their baby teeth
- Difficulty chewing
- Difficulty with biting
- Mouth breathing
- Thumbsucking or other disruptive habits past age 5
- Speech impediments
- Obviously protruding teeth
- Teeth that don’t come together in a normal manner (or at all)
- The jaw shifting when your child opens or closes it
- Crowded front teeth around ages 7-8
These common orthodontic problems can be due to genetics, injury, unusual growth patterns, or poor oral habits. By the end of their teen years, a child’s jaw bones will begin to harden and eventually stop growing. Orthodontic procedures performed after this point often take more time and can involve more complex treatment, such as tooth extractions or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics later in life, giving your child the best chance at a beautifully confident smile!
How early orthodontic consultations ensure a healthy smile
When you schedule your child for a FREE consultation with us, Dr. Williams or Dr. Hamman will assess their smile using digital photographs, x-rays, and an oral examination. They’ll be able to see if there are any issues present, giving us the chance to correct them before they have the chance to develop into something more serious. Being proactive in this way has big benefits when it comes to a child’s smile! It means that we’re able to get them the optimal care they need when they need it most.
This type of intervention is often referred to as Phase I treatment, and we generally use it 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 damage due to crowding, misalignment, or malformed jaws
If we feel that your child is a good fit for Phase I treatment, our doctors may choose to use an orthodontic appliance like braces or aligners for a period of time. This can help correct poor jaw growth, create space for the developing teeth, and help the facial muscles develop normally. It can be done with one or both jaws. Once this phase is complete, any appliance used will be removed and a period of observation will begin. During this time, we may recommend a retainer to keep the teeth stable, and we’ll continue to monitor your child’s mouth every 4-6 months.
Most Phase I patients will eventually need Phase II treatment, which will often require another round of braces or aligners to continue the stabilizing process. This will complete the process of moving the teeth into the desired positions and finalize the bite correction. Your child will be left with nothing but a beautifully aligned and fully functional smile!
Get your child’s smile off to a great start with Williams & Hamman Orthodontics
You don’t need a dental referral to see an orthodontist, and since our consultations are free, there’s nothing to lose by bringing your child in for an early evaluation! If no immediate care is necessary, you’ll be invited back to our office on a regular basis so we can continue to monitor your child’s smile as they grow. Keeping up with their dental development in this way will allow us to catch any emerging problems and treat them as needed.
If you’re in Southaven, Hernando, or Olive Branch, we’d love to meet you and your child! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE virtual or in-office consultation with Williams & Hamman Orthodontics, and take the first step towards a lifetime of happy smiles for your child.