How do you know if your child needs to see an orthodontist, and when should you think about booking an appointment? Our BC and Alberta orthodontists list some common early warning signs of orthodontic problems and answer frequently asked questions.
Many parents wonder how early kids really need to see an orthodontist - after all, when they were young they may remember not seeing an orthodontist for assessment themselves until they were close to their teenage years.
However, in recent years our knowledge about jaw development and orthodontic treatment options for children has advanced. We now recommend children see an orthodontist for an initial assessment by age 7.
By this time, enough permanent teeth have erupted that an orthodontist can determine whether any issues need correction. The eruption of incisors can make problems such as crowding, open bites and deep bites detectable. Examining the first molars gives them an opportunity to check for misalignment (malocclusion, or bad bite).
You may also have noticed some issues yourself and have questions or concerns that an orthodontist may be able to address during your appointment. We'll list some common problems we often diagnose in children below:
How do I know my child needs to see an orthodontist?
It may not be necessary to wait until your child turns 7 to visit an orthodontist. If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, feel free to make an orthodontist visit for him or her today. With early intervention, we're may be able to identify developing issues and create a custom treatment plan geared to your child's needs.
- Finger sucking or other oral habits
- Early or late loss of primary (baby) teeth
- Mouth breathing
- Speech problems
- Upper and lower jaws that don't line up
- Teeth that stick out too far
- Misplaced, crowded, or blocked-out teeth
- Jaws that shift or make sounds
- Biting the roof of the mouth or cheek
- Clenching or grinding of teeth
What does an orthodontist do?
An orthodontist is a dentist who's trained to prevent, diagnose and treat irregularities with the teeth and jaw. They can correct existing conditions and identify issues that may develop in the future. Orthodontic patients range in age from children to adults.
The issues mentioned above can be treated with orthodontic care to improve a patient's bite and consequently, their oral health.
With a healthy bite, your child will be able to chew, eat and speak properly. Straight, evenly spaced teeth align properly with opposing teeth in the jaw.
Orthodontists use fixed and removable dental devices such as braces, bands, Invisalign clear aligners and retainers to change the position of the teeth in the mouth. They treat dental abnormalities, including:
- Misalignment of the jaw
- Crowded, crooked or improperly spaced teeth
- Bite problems (example: overbite or underbite)
For kids with airway or speech issues, seeing the orthodontist for an initial assessment can help set them and their parents on the path to finding answers to questions or concerns they may not have been able to resolve yet.
What will happen during my child's initial orthodontic assessment?
At myORTHODONTIST, our team takes a 2-phase approach to orthodontic treatment, beginning with early orthodontics assessment and intervention.
After assessing whether your child has an orthodontic issue and the nature of the problem, we'll provide a diagnosis and recommend the appropriate orthodontic treatment - perhaps palatal expansion, braces or Invisalign to correct positioning of the jaw or alignment with teeth.
Our orthodontists are used to answering questions for kids in a way that may calm some of the worries or apprehension they have about orthodontic treatment. We can explain the treatment process in kid-friendly language and perhaps help them feel better about getting braces or using a dental device or mouth guard.
We also believe that orthodontics can offer solutions to promote well-being throughout the body - not just a child's mouth and airways. We can assess individual risk factors and needs, and work to establish an overall balance for dental-facial health while treating your child's specific issues.