Most of us view braces as one of the awkward parts of adolescence that we’d like to forget. Phrases like “metal mouth” and “brace face” make us cringe as we think our own kids might deal with some of the unpleasantness of their youth.
But what if we could get a head start on the process and make everything go a little smoother? Well, that’s just what the doctor ordered!
When to see an orthodontist
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, a child should be evaluated by an orthodontist by the age of 7. This is when a child’s permanent teeth begin to erupt, which means your orthodontist will be able to spot any issues that may, well, pop up.
If your child is older than that, don’t worry! Any time is a good time to make that initial appointment.
What happens at your first appointment?
Many initial consultations with orthodontists are complimentary, so don’t let the cost of a visit keep you away. Your orthodontist will conduct a thorough clinical exam of your mouth to determine if there are any potential issues that could benefit from orthodontic treatment.
If that is the case, the next step is to get diagnostic records which will include pictures and x-rays of your mouth. Your orthodontist will then have a digital model of your teeth to determine the best course of treatment.
Why start treatment so early?
Not all cases will need to start early treatment. Every individual patient is unique, and some types of orthodontic treatment will work best if started after all adult teeth have come in.
For others, starting treatment “early” — that is, while baby teeth are still present — will set your child up for a smooth course of treatment over the long run. Early treatment will help guide incoming permanent teeth into the right place and ensure proper jaw development. This prevents overcrowding, impacted teeth, and other unpleasant things.
If you notice your child has an underbite, overbite, crossbite, severe overcrowding, adult teeth erupting in the wrong place, or early loss of baby teeth, they might be a candidate for early treatment.
Is orthodontia mostly cosmetic?
No way! While straight teeth are certainly more pleasing to look at, they also prevent a lot of oral health problems.
- Teeth that are overcrowded or crooked make gum disease and tooth decay more likely – as there will be more hidden crevices where your toothbrush and floss can’t reach, leaving cavity-causing bacteria to flourish
- A bad bite can cause issues with chewing – leading to jaw problems, strained muscles and frequent headaches
- Untreated orthodontic issues may also affect your child’s speech
When you get your child on the right track, you increase the likelihood that their natural teeth will last them a lifetime.
Plus, technology these days is leaps and bounds better than when we were kids. You might find your child is excited to get their very own set of braces if they get to pick out the colors and shapes – especially if they get to skip part of their school day to do so.