Although orthodontics is associated with teens more than any other demographic, treatment can actually benefit patients of all ages, including young children. In fact, orthodontic evaluations can be an important part of a child’s oral health, which is why the American Association of Orthodontists says every child should see an orthodontist by age 7.
If you’re a parent with a younger child, you may find this recommendation to be a little confusing. Most children this age still have developing mouths and a large number of baby teeth remaining, so why would they need to see an orthodontist already? If you’re familiar with the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” it’s a big part of why we also recommend early orthodontic evaluations here at Central Massachusetts Orthodontic Associates!
Early orthodontic exams, in conjunction with regular growth and development checks, are helpful because they give us the chance to catch orthodontic issues sooner rather than later. This can prevent these issues from having a negative impact on a child’s teeth and bite later on down the line.
We treat a number of young patients in our Worcester, Spencer, and Auburn offices. This has allowed us to witness firsthand how early evaluations, monitoring, and treatment can benefit a child’s oral health. If you have a child ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation so we can take a look at how their mouth is developing! In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at what Dr. Giarrusso and Dr. Livanos will be looking for during an early orthodontic evaluation.
Crooked teeth can be hard to clean thoroughly, and they’re also more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. This can eventually compromise the surrounding gum tissue if left untreated. It can even affect the shape and position of the gum line! While we’re able to successfully align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on correcting certain malocclusions can give your child the best chance at a healthy smile.
Crowding & Spacing
An experienced orthodontist will be able to tell if a young child is having problems with excessive crowding or spacing, or if this is likely to be a future issue. Spacing issues can arise if a tooth has been lost prematurely, if one has never developed, or when the teeth are too small or narrow. If it’s crowding that’s causing a problem, we can often address it by extracting certain primary teeth. In more severe cases, we may use dental arch development and expansion.
Tooth Loss & Eruption
Because baby teeth fall out, many people underestimate how important they actually are. As placeholders for our permanent teeth, however, where they’re located and when they’re lost matters more than you may think. Primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order. If either of our doctors notices a significant deviation from this pattern, it could signify a developmental issue that may require their further attention.
By the time they’re ready for an orthodontic evaluation, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has any more or less than this, it could indicate that there may be missing, crowded, or extra teeth that also require monitoring by Dr. Giarrusso or Dr. Livanos.
Obviously protruding front teeth are often seen primarily as a cosmetic concern, but the effects of an overbite pattern can go beyond that. Patients may experience pain in the jaw, excessive tooth wear, and even interference with normal speech patterns.
We’ll usually wait until a child’s mouth has matured a bit more before correcting an overbite, but there are still a number of treatment options for reducing the risk of pain and traumatic injury as they are growing. Additionally, these corrective measures can often improve a child’s confidence in their smile.
When a child is dealing with an underbite, it is important to determine whether the malocclusion is caused by problems with the eruption of the teeth or by the relationship of the jaws. While we may need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin comprehensive treatment, measures can be taken earlier on to help avoid damage to the front teeth. These measures also address and encourage skeletal correction. In fact, underbite patients who receive treatment between the ages of about 7-10 tend to be less likely to need corrective jaw surgery when they are older!
A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding, reduced airway function, and may cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood is more predictable, and also requires less pressure with less invasive appliances. Treating a posterior crossbite can help eliminate shifts in the bite that can lead to asymmetric jaw growth, will reduce crowding, and can also create space for the permanent teeth to erupt. It may also improve the quality of your child’s airway.
Anterior Open Bites
In an anterior open bite, the front teeth do not overlap enough. This often results in poor function, plus excessive wear on the back teeth. It can be caused by oral habits such as extended finger or thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or if a child uses a bottle or pacifier for too long.
In these cases, our expert team will be happy to work with both you and your child to help eliminate any destructive habits early on in order to allow their dental development to continue normally.
Early Evaluations lead to healthier smiles at Central Massachusetts Orthodontic Associates
When you understand everything that goes into an early orthodontic evaluation, it’s easy to see why they’re so important to a child’s oral health! Even if no treatment is indicated for your child, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that our board-certified experts are monitoring their growth and dental development over the years.
Our expert team is committed to creating a positive orthodontic experience for the entire family, and we offer a wide range of orthodontic services to patients of all ages in a welcoming environment. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation and set them up for a lifetime of beautiful and healthy smiles!