When to Take Your Child to See an Orthodontist

Our Dental Blog | Child Dentistry | 08.13.2019

High-quality orthodontic care is key in the quest for healthy teeth and gums. Children can greatly benefit from the expertise of an orthodontist, who can help you address a number of issues before they become more severe.

Many parents, however, are unsure when to take their child to see an orthodontist, or whether seeing one is even necessary. Keep reading to learn how an orthodontic specialist works with pediatric dentists to deliver the best in oral care.

What is an orthodontist?

To better understand the need for orthodontics, it’s important to first clarify what an orthodontist is. This health professional undergoes an additional 2-3 years of specialized training beyond regular dental school. Their expertise lies in malocclusion, which is the misalignment of teeth and jaws.

It’s a well-known fact that braces are one of the most effective ways to treat abnormal bite patterns. But orthodontists also focus on preventive measures to reduce the need for these corrective devices.

When should my child see an orthodontist?

Orthodontic treatments can begin at any age but, it’s usually best to seek help at the first sign of alignment issues or when the child reaches the age of 7. Early intervention can save time and money in the long run. It can also help your child avoid more serious problems later on.

Aside from a misaligned bite, common orthodontic issues include:

  • Overcrowding

Happens when teeth have insufficient room to erupt from the gums

  • Protrusion

Characterized by the upper teeth extending too far forward or lower teeth not extending far forward enough

  • Misaligned dental midlines

Caused when the back of the bite doesn’t fit or match properly

The above problems can lead to accidental chips, abnormal chewing, and even speech impediments. Because a child’s teeth are so mobile, they’ll continue to move gradually in response to the normal forces of biting and chewing. This gradual movement is also exacerbated by thumb-sucking, mouth breathing or the early loss of baby teeth.

Orthodontic issues usually become apparent at around 7 years of age when the permanent teeth begin to come in. That’s why at Treehouse Dental, we advise parents to bring their child in at this age for early intervention or preventive treatment.

How can an orthodontist help?

Many parents believe a set of braces is the only way to treat orthodontic issues. Although braces are certainly effective, they can be avoided if problems are addressed early. Should braces still be required down the line, this can help reduce the time they need to be worn later on.

Preventive orthodontics focuses on identifying the factors that are causing a misalignment of teeth. Maintaining space for a child’s teeth to erupt is a common form of preventive treatment. Early exfoliation of the canines and molars is one way to create room and avoid overcrowding. Orthodontists can also influence jaw growth to help with facial symmetry or encourage habit cessation for children who suffer from tongue thrust or continue to suck their thumbs.

By addressing malocclusion early on, your child can experience the following benefits:

  • Bite problems that lead to other oral issues are addressed
  • A more functional relationship between the teeth, lips, and face
  • Improved facial appearance
  • A reduced need for more invasive dental correction in the future
  • Increased self-confidence and self-worth in your child

For children who do eventually require braces, these corrective devices are created and fitted by an orthodontist. Braces fix alignment issues by putting steady pressure on the teeth. This pressure eventually moves them into a straighter position. How long your child will need to wear braces largely depends on the problems the orthodontist is trying to correct. The average length, however, is about 2 years. If your child is uncomfortable with the idea of traditional metal braces, invisible aligners may also be an option. These custom trays are made of plastic and very discreet. Ask the orthodontist if this type of treatment is right for your child.

Where can I find a good orthodontist?

One of the best ways to find a good orthodontist is through your pediatric dental clinic. Choose a clinic that offers orthodontic care as part of their standard practice. This specialist should also have a great deal of experience working with youngsters as pediatric orthodontics comes with its unique set of challenges.

Should your pediatric dentist notice any alignment issues, they’ll refer your child to an orthodontist right away. At Treehouse Dental, we have an in-house orthodontist on call for exactly that because we believe early intervention is key in maintaining the oral health of your little one.

For more information on orthodontics, call Treehouse Dental at 1-833-333-6623 or contact us here.

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