Have you ever found yourself asking, “at what age does my child need to see an orthodontist?” When we think of orthodontics, we usually tend to picture older children and teens. But did you know that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a check-up with an orthodontist no later than age 7? Yes, while they still have baby teeth, and yes, while their teeth and mouths are still developing. Why? Let’s take a look!

The transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth is an important one, including where they’re located and when they fall out. Your child’s primary teeth set the foundation for the permanent teeth and their ultimate position in the mouth.

Having an orthodontic exam at age 7 can pick up on any potential issues early enough that any negative impact on the future permanent teeth can be prevented. What kind of issues will your orthodontist be looking for?

When asking yourself, “at what age does my child need to see an orthodontist?” here are some important things to keep in mind.

1. Tooth Loss and Eruption

Baby teeth normally fall out in a fairly specific order. If there’s any significant deviation from this pattern, there could be developmental issues that need attention. By age 7, children should have at least four permanent molars and two to four permanent incisors. If a child has more or less than this, there might be problems with missing, crowding, or extra teeth.

Sometimes removing a primary tooth early or maintaining a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely can prevent bigger problems later on.

2. Crowding and Spacing

By age 7, it’s possible to tell if a child has or will have a problems with excessive crowding or spacing. Spacing issues can arise over a tooth lost prematurely, one that never developed, or teeth that are too small or spaced apart. Crowding might require expanding the arches or removing teeth to improve the situation.

3. Misalignment

Although teeth can be aligned at an older age, crooked teeth are more susceptible to uneven damage and wear, and the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue can wind up compromised. Correcting severely crooked teeth at an earlier age can also improve your child’s self esteem.

While most young children with misaligned teeth do not require early treatment, having an orthodontist monitor your teeth through this transitional stage is very important.

4. Severe Overbite or Protrusive Front Teeth

By age 7, it will be obvious if a child’s front teeth stick out excessively. While we cannot always permanently correct an overbite until your child’s mouth has finished growing, we can help to reduce the severity of the problem and make things easier for them until growth is complete.

5. Underbites

Underbites can be caused by tooth problems or jaw problems, and the most difficult scenario is when the lower jaw grows too far forward. In those cases, we typically have to wait until the patient has finished growing (usually sometime after age 16), to finish their treatment.

Early treatment is paramount with these types of skeletal problems. It’s important to try and normalize this bite as much as possible, as early as possible, to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. If we notice an underbite in a young patient, we will “jump the bite” with braces or a headgear to try and get a handle on it before completing treatment in their teenage years.

However, if we don’t see the patient with a severe underbite until adolescence, there is often little that can be done and jaw surgery is required for correction. Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of 7 and 10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery at an older age, and that’s one big reason why it’s so important to ask “at what age does my child need to see an orthodontist?” while they are still young.

6. Posterior Crossbites

Posterior crossbites can cause crowding and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw from ages 7 to 10 can reduce crowding and create the kind of space that’s necessary for the eruption of the front teeth. It can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw.

7. Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites

By age 7, it’s possible to detect vertical problems with the bite. Bites that are too deep (where the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting) can indicate the patient has a small lower jaw.

Bites that don’t overlap enough (open bites) may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit that is causing dental problems. If that’s the case, we encourage our patients to eliminate these destructive habits early so that normal development can occur.

What’s the next step?

For all these reasons and more, early orthodontic evaluations are so important in order to give your child the best chance for a healthy, beautiful smile! Most children lose all their baby teeth by age 11 to 13. By the end of their teen years, the jaw bones will harden and stop growing.

Although some treatments will have to wait until all the permanent teeth are in, interceptive treatment can, in certain cases, make comprehensive treatment faster, better, and give your child the benefit of an additional three to four years of having a great smile at an age when their self-image is developing!

Your Hinsdale Orthodontist

It’s not just early evaluations that are important, however. Be sure to choose a Hinsdale orthodontist who is highly trained, highly experienced, and one who enjoys building relationships with the families he or she serves.

In order to provide the best possible care to our patients, I prioritize continuing education and am an active member of the American Dental Association, the American Association of Orthodontists, the Illinois Society of Orthodontists, and the Illinois State Dental Society.

I believe it is important to be a student of the profession and to continue to evaluate new treatment systems that can lead to even better and improved outcomes for our Hinsdale orthodontics patients.

Our experienced and talented team is committed to working with you and your family to create a comfortable, stress-free, and rewarding experience every time you visit our Hinsdale orthodontics practice. You can be sure that when you visit CHT Orthodontics, your care is in the hands of a highly-trained orthodontist and supported by staff members with respect and experience in their field.

From the very beginning, we will inform you every step along the way; we believe you should understand every aspect regarding your treatment at all times. Remember, if you’re asking yourself “at what age does my child need to see an orthodontist?” and your child is around 7 years old, please contact our Hinsdale orthodontics office today and schedule an appointment!

We look forward to helping your child find their best smile!