As your child begins to lose primary teeth and permanent teeth are growing in, you may start to wonder when or if an orthodontic evaluation is needed. An orthodontist is a dentist with specialized training in aligning and straightening teeth. The American Dental Association and the American Association of Orthodontists recommend all children be evaluated for orthodontic treatment by age 7, or about the time permanent teeth begin erupting. By this age, orthodontists can detect potential problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth and recommend future treatment.
Starting the process early doesn’t mean your child will definitely need braces or get braces right away. However, early screening with an orthodontist can identify potential problems such as overcrowded teeth or bite problems, also known as malocclusion. Most orthodontists recommend seeking treatment for dental problems before your child stops growing. While growth is still ongoing, correcting dental problems is usually a shorter and less complicated process.
Traditionally, orthodontic treatment has been a single-phase process that begins between the ages of 8 and 14, after all baby teeth have fallen out and the majority of permanent teeth have replaced them. However, many orthodontists are now recommending a two-phase treatment plan which can begin at an earlier age. The first phase usually involves the use of a dental appliance as opposed to braces. The second phase includes the use of traditional braces. The braces phase is generally shorter than a treatment plan that was not preceded by dental hardware.
The best choice for you and your child will largely depend on the severity of your child’s dental problems. Have an evaluation early and discuss with your child’s dentist or orthodontist the best course of action to provide a lifetime of beautiful smiles.