Orthodontics for My Child: When Is the Right Time?
Many people associate preteens and teenagers with braces and orthodontics, but that doesn’t mean those are the only years where a healthy smile is important! Patients who are younger or older can benefit from professional orthodontic care. When is the right time for your child to start their orthodontic journey?
TIMING MAKES A DIFFERENCE
As children mature, their smiles can change a great deal in a relatively short period of time. Depending on the specific orthodontic challenges they are facing, the correct time to act can vary. For example, if your child is developing a jaw issue, your orthodontist may recommend a faster timeline to act on treatment. However, with something like a very mild overbite, your orthodontist may recommend that you wait until all of your child’s adult teeth have grown in. While some issues can be handled in the future, it’s still a good idea to have an orthodontic evaluation of your child before the age of 7.
WHAT SIGNS INDICATE A NEED FOR ORTHODONTIC INTERVENTION?
When your child is seven, they will probably have a mixture of adult and baby teeth. This is an excellent time to seek an orthodontic consultation, as it’s early enough to fix some problems and an opportunity for you to learn about future needs so that you’re prepared. Some of the signs that your child might require orthodontic intervention include:
- Mouth breathing
- Teeth that are biting into the cheek
- Misplaced or crowded teeth
- Losing baby teeth early or late
- Lower and upper teeth that do not meet properly (overbite, underbite, etc.)
- Teeth grinding
- Prolonged thumb sucking (past the age of four)
- Trouble chewing or biting
Depending on what issues your child has, choosing to pursue treatment early might prevent the need for additional surgery, tooth removal, or other procedures in the future.
DOES EARLY TREATMENT SOLVE EVERY PROBLEM?
Early orthodontic treatment is one way to help solve overbites, underbites, and more. One of the benefits of acting early is avoiding the need for potentially extensive intervention in the future, which can help save money and time. For example, orthodontics can be used to fix a severe underbite when a child is young, and additional orthodontics could be used to fine-tune the finished product once all of the adult teeth are present.
While orthodontists can predict the movement of teeth and the development of the smile, in some cases a multi-phase plan is most appropriate. If your child has teeth that are severely protruding, initial treatment might last one or two years. After this treatment, your child might need to wear a retainer for a couple of years as their remaining baby teeth leave and adult teeth grow in. Finally, once all adult teeth are present, your child can be evaluated again to determine if they would benefit from braces or another orthodontic treatment.
WHAT TYPES OF ORTHODONTIC SOLUTIONS CAN BE USED FOR EARLY INTERVENTION?
There are many comfortable and effective solutions that can be used to correct your child’s orthodontic problems. Some of the most commonly-used options include early treatment braces, retainers, and headwear. To make things a bit more appealing and fun, retainers can be customized using different colors and images, and different colors of rubber bands can be used for braces.
If you or your child would prefer an invisible solution, Invisalign First is designed with younger patients in mind. These aligners are the same as those adults use for Invisalign treatment, but they have modifications to make them more comfortable for children. Invisalign First can be utilized to correct spacing problems, improve smile shape, and more.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING YOUR CHILD’S EVALUATION?
Before your child turns seven, it is recommended that you schedule their first evaluation with an orthodontist. We know that it can be intimidating to visit an orthodontist for the first time, but it’s important to view this visit as a great way to learn more about your child’s current oral health and prepare for the future. Some of the questions that you’ll get answers to during your child’s orthodontic evaluation may include:
- Does your child have any orthodontic issues?
- What are the potential solutions to the problem now and in the future?
- Do any teeth need to be removed? Could teeth need to be removed in the future?
- How long will treatment take? Will there probably be multiple phases of treatment?
- How much will the treatment cost? How can you plan ahead for future treatment costs?
By learning about what to anticipate early in your child’s life, you can keep their smile as beautiful and healthy as possible.