When Should a Child See an Orthodontist for the First Time?

Kids grow up so fast.  One minute they’re teething as their first baby teeth starting pushing through, and the next minute those same teeth are being replaced with much bigger adult teeth.  And those bigger teeth feel absolutely huge in comparison to the little ones that are now off to the tooth fairy.  How are teeth that big going to fit in a mouth that small?  Should I be concerned about my child’s overbite?  What about their thumb sucking habit?  Is it bad that my child has a big gap between their front teeth?  These are all great questions that parents ask themselves around this time in their child’s life.

If you’re going through the same stage with your little one, then you may be surprised to learn that your child may be ready for their first visit to the orthodontist.  In fact, the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that all children receive an orthodontic screening no later than age 7.  A referral from your dentist can help with specific concerns, but a referral isn’t actually necessary to schedule an initial screening with an orthodontist. 

First Visit ‘first visit to orthodontist’

What to Expect at a Child’s First Orthodontic Appointment

Most of the time, that first appointment is just a simple visit where the orthodontist will make note of a few things that need to be watched during periodic observation appointments that are typically complimentary.  In fact, most kids don’t need any actual orthodontic treatment at age 7, but this proactive approach will allow the orthodontist to time the treatment correctly for the individual child.  One of the persisting myths in orthodontics is that all permanent teeth need to be in before a kiddo’s first visit to the orthodontist.  By delaying that initial visit, however, ideal treatment windows may end up closing, and future orthodontic treatment may end up being much more complex than it otherwise would have been.

What Type of Orthodontic Treatment May Be Recommended for a Younger Child?

Early interceptive orthodontic treatment is otherwise known as Phase I treatment.  While orthodontists do recommend that all children be screened for treatment by the age of 7 or 8, many kids don’t actually need Phase I treatment.  Early screening simply allows the orthodontist to keep an eye on things and make sure intervention isn’t needed.

For some kids, however, treatment is recommended.  Phase I treatment varies significantly based on the individual needs, but it may include early extractions of primary teeth, orthodontic palatal expanders, habit appliances, space maintaining appliances, head gear, or some limited braces.  Typically, phase I treatment has limited and specific goals to help set up the teeth and jaws for success later on.  

In cases where orthodontic treatment is recommended but parents are hesitant to put braces on their child, Invisalign may be a good option.  In fact, at Rise + Smile Orthodontics, Dr. Mathue Faulkner is one of the first orthodontists to start using the Invisalign Palatal Expander in Austin, Texas.

Invisalign Expander ‘Invisalign Palatal Expander’

Why Your Child May Need Phase I Orthodontic Treatment?

Whether your child will fall into the periodic observation camp or the early interceptive treatment camp, these early visits will put them on the right path for a healthy life-long smile.  

Here are 7 reasons to see an orthodontist at age 7:

    1. Identify and correct harmful oral habits

      Oral habits like finger or thumb sucking, teeth grinding, lip sucking, tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, and prolonged pacifier use can lead to severe orthodontic issues.  Not only are some of those habits easier to break at an early age, but the longer the habit continues, the worse the bite can get.  

      2. Help guide tooth eruption

        With the use of x-rays, issues with the eruption of adult teeth can be easily identified.  In the case that there is an issue, a treatment plan can be decided on to create the right environment to aid the teeth in their eruption.  

        3. Identify extra or missing teeth

          Extra or missing teeth can cause significant issues down the road if left untreated.  An early screening can help identify these potential issues as well as help formulate a plan for the proper timing and course of action.  

          4. Correct jaw growth problems

            Jaw growth issues are often first diagnosed by an orthodontist, and jaws are more malleable with early intervention.  When treated early, many patients can avoid jaw surgery or other complex treatment down the road.  Additionally, jaw growth issues may lead to sleep/airway concerns in kids, and early intervention can prevent a lifetime of breathing issues.  

            5. Make room for crowded teeth

              There are several different ways to treat severe crowding.  Whether it be a simple appliance, and expander, or just give-it-time, an early orthodontic screening can help set up a plan with how to handle cases where we may be worried about a tooth having enough room to come in.  

              6. Boost self-esteem

                Some kids are born naturally confident, but other kids can really struggle, especially during their formative years.  Bullying can start at a young age, and teeth are frequently a targeted feature.  Some simple orthodontics early on can give a huge boost of confidence that carries over into their school, activities, and relationships for life. 

                7. Prevent damage or trauma to the teeth and gums

                  Tooth fractures and trauma can be very common for the first few years after the permanent front teeth erupt.  This can be attributed to the clumsy nature of kiddos in combination with flared out front teeth.  In some cases, early braces may be advised to help reduce the risk of trauma to those front teeth.

                  While many kiddos won’t need any early orthodontics, an initial screening at age 7 can help set up a plan that will guide them into a long-lasting, healthy, and beautiful smile.  An early screening can help prevent bigger issues and procedures down the road as well.  Kids grow up fast, and chances are your little one may actually be ready for their first visit to the orthodontist

                  Faulkner Phase I ‘Phase I Orthodontics in Austin Texas’

                  If you live in Austin, Texas, please reach out to us if you’re interested in scheduling your kiddo’s first orthodontic appointment.