Braces…you remember that time in your life don’t you? That phase where you undergo
your metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, a milestone most pre-teens and
teenagers undergo. Even though the majority of patients don’t need them until they’ve
reached this age bracket, parents should know that there are good reasons your child
should get an orthodontic evaluation much sooner.
In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a check-up with an
orthodontist specialist no later than age 7.
Some parents may be asking, “Isn’t a 7-year-old too young for a screening?” In
actuality, there are two important things that are available at this age, a lot of diagnostic
information and future facial growth potential.
As orthodontists, we’ve been taught the knowledge to know when there are subtle
problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth. While your child may appear to have
straight teeth, there could be a problem that only an orthodontist can detect. During the
screening, if we identify a developing problem, we may recommend monitoring your
child’s growth and development, and if indicated, begin treatment at the appropriate
time. In other cases, we might find a problem that can benefit from early treatment.
Early treatment may prevent more serious problems from developing and may make
treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. In some cases, we will be able to
achieve results that may not be possible once the face and jaws have finished the
majority of its growth.
For example, we had a 7-year-old patient visit our office recently because her mom was
concerned about her front teeth not coming together. Upon evaluation, the patient was
found to have an anterior openbite and a posterior crossbite accompanied by a
functional shift when biting. We also discovered that our 7-year-old patient still had a
nighttime thumb sucking habit. Now knowing exactly what all this jargon means is our
job, don’t worry. What we wanted to emphasize with the parent and her daughter was
that her formerly cute nighttime habit was causing some major issues with her bite. We
educated the parent and our little patient about the importance of ceasing that habit as
soon as possible and recommended interceptive/early orthodontic treatment in order to
address all of the found issues. If this patient had been seen for the first time as a
teenager, it would have been much more difficult to correct these issues and enough
growth in this undesirable pattern may have already taken place where our only option
may have involved orthognathic surgery.

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