How early should a child see an orthodontist? Many parents feel that they’re on top of things if they schedule their child’s first orthodontic appointment at age 10 or 11. They’re thinking of braces as a treatment for adolescents, and figure that if the child is brought to the orthodontist anytime before adolescence begins, then that should be early enough.
Are you surprised to learn that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children be seen for their first orthodontic appointment at age 7?
Why Early Treatment?
During childhood, bones are partly made up of cartilage, which allows them to grow in size, but also to change shape. The growth occurs partly in response to the environment, responding to the forces placed on it. When a child goes through puberty, the cartilage is replaced by bone tissue. After this point, changing the size and shape of the bone is difficult because it becomes more or less set.
This means that the window for achieving the optimal outcome with orthodontic treatment is limited. Treatment done before bones set is more effective, because the orthodontist has a greater influence on the size and shape of the facial and jaw bones. For many children, this is necessary to allow enough room for all of the teeth to come in without crowding, and to align the jaw and facial bones so that the bite is healthy. Dentofacial orthopedics (such as palatal expanders) and braces are both commonly used treatments in kids.
Early treatment reduces the chances that teeth will be overcrowded later. When crowding is present in older teens and adults, it’s sometimes necessary to extract some of the permanent teeth to relieve the crowding, because the jaw bones can’t be induced to grow large enough to accommodate all of the teeth. Early treatment can create the necessary space by influencing the development of the bones, so it’s less likely that extractions will later be needed.
Often, two-phase treatment is used, in which a child gets early treatment, and then receives a second phase of treatment as a teen. For many kids, the early phase of treatment makes the later treatment shorter and more effective.
Does Your Child Need Early Treatment?
If your child is around age 7, it’s time for him or her to see an orthodontist to determine whether or not early treatment would be beneficial. You don’t want to miss the window for optimal orthodontic treatment, and later regret it. Bringing your child to an orthodontist doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely be committing to early orthodontic treatment, since not all kids need this type of treatment. In many cases, your child’s visit to the orthodontist will just provide you with peace of mind, and give your child a chance to become comfortable with the orthodontist, making later treatment more pleasant.
At Avenue Orthodontics, we believe that all children should have the opportunity for an early orthodontic exam. And it’s really a treat for us to meet a new family and help them with all of their questions. That’s why we provide a consultation and initial exam to all children free of charge, even if your child doesn’t turn out to need early treatment.
Our Whitestone office serves patients from Flushing, Bayside, and the surrounding area. When you visit us, you’ll not only get reliable information from an Ivy League-educated orthodontist; your child will also meet an orthodontist who truly seems like a friend to them. We can’t wait to meet you and your child!