August 31, 2018
There is a persistent stereotype that tends to surround orthodontics, that of an awkward teenager with a mouthful of metal braces. It can be surprising to learn that the American Association of Orthodontists actually recommends children have their first orthodontic evaluation by the age of seven! We’ve had patients question this, since kids that age have most of their baby teeth and mouths that are still developing, but that’s what makes it such a great time to see an orthodontist like Dr. Baugher and Dr. Claiborne. When an initial examination is performed around this age, any potential orthodontic issues can be caught early on, before they have a chance to become more serious. Early intervention can help prevent these problems from having any negative impact on permanent teeth in the future.
Central Virginia Orthodontics are big believers in preventative care! We see a number of young patients here, and have seen firsthand how beginning treatment at the right time can make a positive difference to their oral health over the course of many years. When you schedule an evaluation for your child, our doctors will thoroughly check their teeth, jaw, and mouth for any orthodontic issues to determine if treatment is indicated. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, take a look below to learn more about what we’ll be looking for and what we can do to keep their smile on track.
Even though we all lose our baby teeth, they still have an important role to play as the placeholders for our permanent teeth. Where they grow in and when they fall out matters more than you might think. Primary teeth are generally lost in a fairly specific order, and any noticeable deviation from that pattern could signify a developmental issue that needs our attention.
By the time a child is around seven years old, he or she should have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. Any more or less than this could be an indication of a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. We may sometimes choose to remove a primary tooth early or to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent bigger problems later on.
Crowding and spacing problems
Generally speaking, an experienced orthodontist will usually be able to tell early on in your child’s life if crowding or spacing is going to be an issue with their teeth. Some may already have problems with this, and some may be likely to develop these problems later on. Spacing issues can show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced apart. Crowding is fairly self-explanatory, and if this is the issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.
Did you know that about 1 in 4 current orthodontic patients are over the age if eighteen? More and more patients are beginning to realize that orthodontics can be successful at almost any age. That doesn’t make early treatment any less important, however. Misaligned teeth are more susceptible to uneven damage and wear, and if this goes untreated, it can eventually affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissues. By correcting crooked teeth as soon as possible, we’re able to prevent some of this excessive wear and tear. It also has the added benefit of increasing your child’s confidence in their smile!
Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)
Obviously protruding front teeth can cause pain in the jaw, possible speech issues, and also affect a child’s cosmetic appearance. While we aren’t always able to permanently correct an overbite until your child’s mouth has finished growing, there are a number of things we can do to help reduce the severity of the problem in the meantime. This can make things easier for them until that growth is complete.
An underbite may originate with problems in the teeth or the jaw. The most difficult scenario with an underbite involves the lower jaw growing too far forward. With complicated cases like that, we’ll usually need to wait until the patient has finished growing to finish their treatment, around age 16 or so. Even when there is a waiting period involved, early treatment is critical to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth.
With underbites, we have various methods we can use to try and normalize the bite as much as possible, as early as possible. This includes a method called “jump the bite,” which uses braces or headgear to get a handle on a young child’s underbite before completing the treatment in their teenage years.
Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of about 7-10 tend to be much less likely to need jaw surgery at an older age.
When a child has a posterior crossbite, it can cause crowding, and it may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. By expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood, we can reduce any crowding, creating the kind of space necessary to allow the front teeth to come through uninterrupted. Expansion can eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw as well.
These are vertical problems with the bite, and can usually be spotted by the time your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This can indicate a small lower jaw. In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough, and this may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. If this is the case, our team will be happy to work with you and your child to eliminate any destructive habits early on so that development can continue normally.
Early evaluations with Central Virginia Orthodontics = healthier smiles
As you can see, early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of giving your child the best chance for a healthy, aligned smile! Most children will lose all their baby teeth by the time they’re entering their teen years, and throughout those same years, the jaw bones will harden and eventually stop growing. Any orthodontic procedures that are performed after this point will likely take more time, and may sometimes require more intensive treatment like tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, reducing the need for extractions or surgery in the future.
Here at Central Virginia Orthodontics, we’re proud to provide patients of all ages with the highest quality orthodontic care in a friendly, comfortable environment. We combine innovative techniques with the latest in technology to ensure patients receive only the most effective treatment possible, and our customized treatment plans mean you can count on us for more than cookie-cutter care. If you’re in Lynchburg or the Central VA area, and you’re ready to schedule your child’s first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today. There’s never been a better time to give your child the gift of a healthy smile!