By: Dr. Michael Flint, President of the Oklahoma Orthodontic Society
Understandably, parents have a lot of questions about orthodontic treatment. Most wonder what’s typical for development, what things children should know by a certain age, and more. When considering orthodontic treatment for their children, many parents think putting it off until middle school or later in adolescence is fine. Many parents are under the assumption they must wait until their child has lost all their baby teeth before scheduling an appointment with an orthodontist. However, it’s more beneficial to a child’s oral health to consider scheduling an orthodontic appointment earlier than that. Orthodontists can spot subtle problems with jaw growth or teeth by age 7—even though some kids primarily have baby teeth. Even better, most orthodontists offer these evaluations at no charge.
Typically by age 7, enough permanent teeth have arrived for an orthodontist to evaluate the “bite”—the way teeth and jaws meet and work, and how that relationship affects a child’s ability to bite, chew and speak effectively. Orthodontists can determine what, if anything, is awry. An appointment earlier in their life cannot only prevent issues down the road, it can speed up treatment when they are actually ready for braces. Actions can also be taken to help the transition of “baby” teeth to permanent teeth.
There are several signs earlier in a child’s life that indicate that orthodontic treatment is in order. If a child is showing any of the following signs, it might make sense to schedule an orthodontic exam:
Early or late loss of baby teeth
Difficulty in chewing or biting
Crowding, misplaced or blocked-out teeth
Jaws that shift or make sounds
Biting the cheek or the roof of the mouth
Teeth that meet abnormally, or don’t meet at all
Jaws that are too far forward or back
Grinding or clenching of the teeth
There also may be underlying problems with the way a child’s adult teeth are coming in. Such as the relationship of the upper and lower jaw, with tooth crowding, or problems that may be occurring due to thumb sucking or other habits. Orthodontists can pinpoint these problems, even if they are subtle, and can start correcting any problems to avoid potential problems for future adult teeth.
Since your child’s teeth deserve the best care. While many dentists offer orthodontic treatment, it is important to understand that orthodontists are specialists in this field and have received 2-3 years of additional training beyond dental school. Their training in growth and development equips them with the most extensive knowledge in orthodontic treatment to ensure your child’s teeth to get the best results as efficiently as possible. They can make sure your child’s teeth with be healthy and straight for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Michael Flint is a President of the Oklahoma Orthodontic Society and the American Association of Orthodontists. The Oklahoma Orthodontic Society is a chapter of the American Association of Orthodontists, which is committed to educating the public about the need for, and benefits of, orthodontic treatment and choosing an orthodontist for your care. An orthodontist is a specialist and must complete two-to-three years of additional schooling beyond dental school at an accredited residency program to achieve this distinction. To find an orthodontist in your area, visit oklahomabraces.org.