The AAO recommends that a child's first visit to the orthodontist occur no later than 7 years of age. It is quite likely that no treatment will be indicated at this time, but some problems, if detected at this time, are much easier to correct than if left for a number of years.
Dr. Lowry believes that most problems can be corrected once all the adult teeth have grown in. Early treatment should be reserved for cases when intervention can be of significant benefit. Early treatment can allow orthodontists to use the growth of the jaws to help correct major problems. In some situations, if one waits too long, that option is lost.
Often times if a child needs early treatment, he or she will need a second phase of treatment once all the adult teeth have grown in.
Concerns to be Assessed in Children:
- Early loss of baby teeth or baby teeth that fall out late.
- Situations where the front teeth stick out significantly. Studies show that if the upper front teeth are in front of the lower front teeth by more than 6 mm, a child has a 1 in 3 chance of fracturing the incisors.
- Severe up and down overlap of the front teeth (‘deep bite') or lack of any overlap of the front teeth (‘open bite').
- Teeth that do not meet properly.
- Habits such as sucking on a thumb, finger, pacifier or other oral habits beyond the age of 3 or 4. Ideally the sooner such habits stop, the better. These habits become a concern especially when the permanent teeth begin to grow in, sometime around 6 years of age.
- Significant crowding or spacing, or severely poor alignment of teeth.
- Jaws where the width of the upper and lower jaws are not coordinated (the upper back teeth fit inside the inside of the lower back teeth).
- Underbites (the lower front teeth are in front of the upper front teeth)
- Crossbites (upper tooth inside the lower tooth)
- Situations where a child's self-esteem is being negatively affected by the appearance of the teeth.
Our largest group of patients are those with all of their permanent teeth. These children can be as young as 9 and as old as 18.
This is a great time to do treatment because all of the teeth have grown in and can be aligned, including the second molar teeth (sometimes called the '12 year molars' though this term is not completely accurate).
Because so many kids get braces during this time of their lives, the appearance of braces is well tolerated. Kids usually have a number of classmates with braces. We have also noticed a large increase in kids wanting braces as a fashion accessory!
Appearance is important to kids in this age group, and straightening the teeth to give them a more attractive smile can enhance self esteem.