When should I take my child to see an orthodontist?
The answer may surprise you – age 7!
Parents and friends often ask me when is the ideal time to bring their child in to see an orthodontist. At age 7, the adult front teeth have usually come in, and this is the perfect time to see an orthodontist.
Here are some reasons why an orthodontic assessment at around age 7 is recommended (according to the American Association of Orthodontists – www.mylifemysmile.org):
- Guide jaw growth
- Lower the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
- Correct harmful oral habits
- Improve appearance
- Guide permanent teeth into a more favorable position
- Improve the way lips meet
Some orthodontic terms:
Primary dentition: Only baby teeth are present
Mixed dentition: Some baby teeth and some adult teeth are present
Permanent dentition: All baby teeth have been lost and only permanent teeth are present
What usually happens at an initial orthodontic consultation for a child in the mixed dentition (usually ages 6-12):
– Photographs are taken of your child’s face and teeth
– The orthodontist checks your child’s jaw growth and tooth development
– A panoramic x-ray may be recommended
What is a panoramic radiograph?
A panoramic radiograph (also called Pan or Panorex™) is a dental x-ray of the upper and lower jaws. It allows the orthodontist to visualize all the teeth and jaw bones – including the baby teeth and developing adult teeth. The amount of radiation in a panoramic radiograph is approximately equal to half of a 7 hour airline flight, and just over the amount of radiation we are each exposed to in one normal day of living on earth.
That being said – radiation adds up of course! Children are especially susceptible to radiation, as their cells are dividing much more rapidly than adult cells. I therefore only recommend one Pan between the ages of 7 and 10 years old at the time of the initial assessment, and the next pan is usually taken when your child is ready to start comprehensive orthodontic treatment if needed.
Most bite problems can wait to be treated once all the adult teeth have come in, but sometimes early or interceptive orthodontic treatment is recommended. The most common indication for early treatment (which usually begins at age 7-10) is a crossbite of either the back teeth or the front teeth. There are great benefits to treating these bite problems early – such as preventing tooth wear and grinding habits, increasing tongue and breathing space, promoting proper jaw growth and making space for crowded teeth (possibly preventing the need for extractions in the future).
Read more on finger and thumb sucking and when to stop.
Feel free to contact me with any questions!
Dr. Andrea Heckler is an Orthodontist with a private practice in the Annex as well as St. Clair/Dufferin area. She treats children, teens and adults of all ages!