As your child’s baby teeth fall out to be replaced by a permanent set, you might wonder about bringing them in for their first visit to the orthodontist’s office. Luckily, our team at Smile Orthodontics has tons of experience with first-time visitors, and we’re more than happy to help you out through what can be a nerve-racking time for any parent.
Mapping Things Out
Perhaps the most important reason for younger patients to come in is to get an early orthodontic screening. We can do this once most of the permanent teeth have come in—generally, that’s around the age of seven. This process is pretty straightforward. We want to identify any possible issues before they get very far along. Sometimes, we call this “interceptive treatment,” which just means catching problems as the mouth is still developing. This strategy has some great benefits for your child, including:
– An understanding of how permanent teeth will come in and develop
– Identifying any bad habits before they cause too much damage
– Thwarting future damage to protruding teeth
– Improving a child’s self-esteem by way of heightened confidence in his or her appearance
Most of our patients won’t require corrective treatment as a result of what’s identified in a first consultation, but the assuredness that results from this free meeting can be invaluable. By knowing what to expect as your child’s teeth develop, you’ll know what to look out for as abnormalities. One of our doctors’ biggest priorities is a parent’s understanding of the situation, and we do everything we can to assure that you know exactly what’s going on.
We also recommend that children have their first visit to the dentist’s office before the age of two. A dentist will make sure all of the baby teeth are normal, and can refer you to an orthodontist if a visit should be made sooner than usual. Make sure to continue regular visits to the dentist, as it can be very difficult to identify dental issues without a trained eye. It’s what we do!
This first orthodontic visit marks the beginning of a regular monitoring effort meant to ensure lifelong health. Regular check-ins mean we can anticipate problems, and nip them in the bud before they become more difficult to treat in later life. This is incredibly beneficial, as early treatment options avoid both tooth extraction and more expensive techniques. During the time between visits, what kinds of things should you be keeping an eye out for?
Crowding and Spacing
While there can be obvious tooth crowding, it’s sometimes very subtle. Even if it’s not obvious to the untrained eye, these orthodontic problems (called malocclusions) can cause real grief later on in the mouth’s development if left untreated. Make sure to regularly check your child’s mouth for teeth bunched together, teeth with larger than normal gaps between them, and teeth erupting from the gums in abnormal locations.
If left untreated, these problems increase the likelihood of periodontal disease, tooth decay, and possible jaw problems later in life, not to mention that crowded or gapped teeth can be unsightly, negatively impacting your child’s self-esteem. With identification and treatment, we can make sure your child’s proud of their smile! If you notice any of these problems arising, you should certainly make an appointment with your orthodontist. We’ll be able to diagnose problems in greater detail, and offer treatment plans if necessary.
Of all early-arising oral problems, an irregular bite is usually the easiest to detect. Keep an eye out for:
– an open bite, where the front teeth don’t meet at all. Usually, this you’ll see an oval- shaped gap between the top and bottom teeth.
– an underbite, where the lower jaw extends farther forward than the upper jaw.
– a crossbite, where a bottom tooth or multiple bottom teeth overlap the upper teeth. Crossbites can sometimes be hard to notice, as a single bottom molar can rest farther towards the outside of the gums than an upper molar. Keep an eye out!
Because these misalignments can be more obvious, they are more likely to negatively impact your child’s self-esteem. As long as they’re caught and treated early, an orthodontist can almost always offer a solution that’ll make a kid proud of his or her smile.
Behavior and Speech
Thumb sucking past the toddler stage can lead to some malocclusions later in life. The effects vary from child to child, so if you’re suspicious of problems caused by this behavior, it’s best to visit an orthodontist for advice. This goes for problems chewing or biting as well, which can indicate a host of oral problems, or nothing strange at all.
A lisp often indicates an oral issue, even if your child’s teeth appear straight. If your child has a lisp, it’s best to visit the orthodontist in order to track down the source.
Don’t Take it for Granted
Just because a malocclusion is cosmetic and doesn’t pose a physical health risk, you shouldn’t disregard it. When a child isn’t confident in their smile, there can be very real psychological effects. Make sure to have an open dialogue with your child and your orthodontist to find the best way forward.
One Last Tip
Keep in mind that the age range of about 10-15 is the “sweet spot” for most orthodontic treatments, as the jaw bones haven’t fully taken their adult shape. Treatments during this time, including braces and aligners, can be less difficult and expensive than in adulthood. Modern techniques allow orthodontists to treat people of all ages, but the “sweet spot” still reigns supreme.
If your child hasn’t seen an orthodontist, or you’re looking for somewhere to get a consultation, feel free to contact us here in beautiful Santa Rosa! We’d be happy to start your child on the path to a healthy, beaming smile. Consultations are free, quick, and thorough! Just call 707.546.8600, or visit our website.