There is no exact age when orthodontic treatment should begin because each patient has a unique smile and therefore unique needs. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends having the first consultation around the age of seven. This allows the orthodontist to begin monitoring your child’s smile so treatment can begin at the right time to have the most impact on the smile.
Early treatment allows your orthodontist to:
- Guide the growth of the jaw to ensure proper eruption of permanent teeth
- Correct the width of the upper and lower arches
- Create adequate space for teeth
- Lessen the need for extractions
- Correct bad habits
- Improve minor speech impediments
Here are some signs to look for that may indicate your child could benefit from treatment:
- Early or late loss of teeth
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Thumb or finger sucking
- Crowded or otherwise misplaced teeth
- Jaw that pops or clicks
- Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
- Jaw that isn’t proportionate to the face
Early treatment can put your child on the path to an ideally functioning bite and beautiful smile.
The purpose of orthodontic treatment
Orthodontic treatment creates a healthy, properly functioning bite. It includes not just straightening the teeth, but also positioning the jaw properly to ensure the bite works as it should. When the teeth and jaws are properly aligned, our bite can work as it is intended without worrying about placing an abnormal amount of pressure on the teeth. An abnormal bite or teeth that are contacting incorrectly or prematurely can cause excessive wear, damage, or even tooth loss. Orthodontic treatment can create a healthier smile by ensuring proper alignment – this can help patients keep their smiles cleaner, helping to stave off decay, gum disease, and other issues.
Treatment options for children
At Gire Orthodontics, we always treat each patient as an individual and create fully customized treatment plans for every patient. Dr. Gire will work with parents and patients to create a treatment plan that addresses that patient’s needs and also takes into account things such as the patient’s age. Some treatment options, such as clear aligners, may not be the most ideal treatments for younger patients.
Braces and Your Child
While braces should never be painful, your child may experience some discomfort while in braces. This is completely normal – as your children’s braces get tightened or as the teeth move through the bone to their new locations, there can be a bit of soreness or discomfort. You can give your child an over-the-counter pain medication to assist with any discomfort. Rinsing with warm salt-water can also help lessen any soreness. Be sure your child has a good supply of orthodontic wax and knows how to use it to alleviate any discomfort in areas of their mouth.
Your child will need to work extra hard to keep their smile clean during treatment. This means brushing frequently and flossing at least once a day. This prevents decay from setting in. Don’t forget to maintain regular visits with your dentist to ensure your child’s smile is healthy.
Your child will probably also need to make a few adjustments to his or her diet. Most of our younger patients use more traditional treatment options so the brackets are bonded directly to the teeth. Eating foods that are too hard, crunchy, chewy, or sticky can pull the brackets off, so be sure your child avoids any foods like these.
Your child can still participate in all of the extracurricular activities he or she has always enjoyed. If your child plays a sport where a blow to the mouth could occur, be sure he or she always wears a properly fitting mouthguard.
Orthodontic treatment can put your child on the path to a healthier, happier, smile. Call Gire Orthodontics today to schedule your complimentary consultation.
Children’s Orthodontics FAQ:
What is the right age to see an orthodontist? While orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, the recommended age to visit an orthodontist is seven. This is because your child will have a mix of baby and permanent teeth and the jaw will still be growing. This allows the orthodontist to be able to guide the growth of the jaw to adequately accommodate all of the permanent teeth.
Why should my child have orthodontic treatment? Many people believe orthodontic treatment is only for cosmetic purposes but it goes much beyond that. Orthodontic treatment creates a healthier smile – straighter teeth are easier to keep clean, making it easier to fend off decay and gum disease. A healthy bite and straighter smile can also improve your child’s ability to bite and chew, and correct some minor speech issues associated with a bad bite. And a straighter smile can also positively impact your child’s self-esteem.
Will my child need braces? This is an individual question that cannot be answered without an in-person consultation. Every smile is unique and therefore it requires individual attention. There are some issues that, while your child is young, appear that braces will be required to correct, but as your child grows they correct themselves. Other times, your child’s smile may appear relatively straight, but there are bite issues that need correction to prevent more severe issues from popping up later.
Can my child use clear aligners like Spark or Invisalign as the treatment? Spark or Invisalign clear aligners are a great treatment option for many patients but they may not be ideal for younger patients. This is because clear aligners require the highest degree of patient compliance in order to be successful. Younger patients may not be ready for the responsibility of clear aligners. This assessment can be made with the help of Dr. Gire during the complimentary consultation.
Can habits, such as thumb sucking or pacifier use, really damage my child’s bite and smile? Yes! Extended thumb sucking or pacifier use can alter your child’s smile by creating many serious issues and possibly an open bite. This occurs when the front teeth don’t meet. This extended habit can alter the way the mouth forms, so it is important to work with your child to stop these habits early.
If one child needs braces, does that mean my other children will, as well? The only way we can tell if your children will need treatment is through a consultation. Some orthodontic issues are genetic, so if one child has an issue, another might also. However, this is no guaranteed. Likewise, every smile is completely unique so even if children present with the similar issues, our approach to correcting it will always be personalized to the individual patient.
Shouldn’t we wait until all the permanent teeth are in to visit an orthodontist? No – your child should visit an orthodontist while there are still baby teeth present. This gives the orthodontist the opportunity to see how the smile is taking shape and to take any necessary interceptive steps that may be needed. If we wait until all of the permanent teeth have erupted or until the jaw has stopped growing, it may make treatment more difficult and involved later on.