Most of us associate braces with the early teenage years. Getting them on around 12, then off a couple of years later. If only it were always that simple!
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child be seen by an orthodontist around age 7. This is a "milestone" year for your child, and should be etched into your pediatric health plan along with immunizations and pediatrician checkups. Even if your child appears to have perfect teeth, this checkup is critical! Why 7 you ask?
- Permanent teeth should be coming in. 6-year permanent molars should be erupted, and many of the front teeth should also be on their way in. A simple panoramic xray lets us know if your child has all of their teeth and if they are on track to erupt properly.
- Save your child from jaw surgery. There is a golden window of opportunity which generally falls between ages 7-10. During this time we are able to help change the growth of the jaws and correct more severe skeletal problems that, if uncorrected, may then require corrective jaw surgery. These include crossbites, openbites, and asymmetric jaw growth.
- Keep your teeth. Permanent teeth that have no room to come in or erupt into an improper position can cause major problems! If these teeth don't erupt properly into healthy gum tissue, you could be looking at future gum grafts, limited oral surgery, or even extractions of permanent teeth. Getting early arch development can set your child up for a much simpler set of full braces later, leading to a better smile.
- Plan for success. Many times, a simple retainer during these developmental years can help adjust the bite to make treatment in the teenage years quicker and more effective.
Let's review a sample case from my practice:
Patient LS, age 8.5. Note the underbite, and associated poutiness of the lower lip. This child is on track to have jaw surgery if not corrected early.
Patient LS, age 10. Limited early braces have restored patient's smile and proper function. Note the improved balance in the lips. Now he's likely avoided surgery and is on track for a speedy straightening phase of braces around age 12.
Parents, be proactive! I am a strong advocate of preventative and early interceptive orthodontics because I get to see the difference it makes in these children day in and day out. I also have to see the consequences of not being screened early; teenagers whose first visit to my office includes a difficult discussion of severe dental and skeletal problems that could have been avoided with a simple free screening.
Consultations are complimentary. Call 615.355.2055 to set up your Age 7 screening!