There is no magic number that sets the right time to consult an orthodontist where children and preadolescents are concerned. The American Association of Orthodontists reports that most treatments start between 9 and 14, but many dentists recommend an initial consultation with an orthodontist at about 7 years old if not earlier in cases where oral and mandibular problems are evident.
What can Orthodontists Do?
Orthodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry that is concerned with correcting problems with improper positioning of the teeth when the mouth is closed, which is called malocclusion. This condition may result in an imperfect bite, leading to other dental issues. Orthodontics extends to the treatment and management of different aspects of facial growth and jaw development.
Orthodontists will use a variety of appliances including braces, plates and headgear to straighten crooked teeth, close gaps, correct the bite, reduce excessive trauma to the teeth and gums as well as improve oral functions. Toothworks is an orthodontist in Toronto that is a great example of just how many different options are out there for your kids when it comes to tooth correction.
What to Expect at the Initial Consultation
Typically, the family dentist recommends a consultation with an orthodontist if the child has observable dental issues such as crooked or crowded teeth. At the first consultation, the orthodontist’s office will take x-rays or computer photographs of the mouth and teeth. X-rays will show how the teeth are developing, including any permanent teeth that have not yet grown out.
The orthodontist may also make an impression of your child’s top and bottom teeth. The mold will show size, shape and spaces in the teeth so that the orthodontist can establish a plan of care specific to your child’s needs.
Many orthodontists provide free initial consultations. Take advantage of this session to ask about the orthodontic procedure and how your child can be prepared for a process that may take several years to complete.
Knowing when your Child is Ready for the Orthodontist
Years ago, braces were not considered until the child’s permanent teeth were complete. More recently, orthodontists have been starting earlier with braces because it has been found that correcting dental alignment in the early stages affects how the permanent teeth grow in.
Additionally, some orthodontic procedures require an early start. Widening the palate to avoid teeth crowding is more effective if orthodontic techniques are started while the palate is not fully developed.
In any case, wearing dental appliances requires a certain level of maturity on the part of your child. The child should be willing and able to perform the specialized cleaning procedures to maintain their dental health. This may have been one of the reasons for waiting until the early teen years to install braces. Nonetheless, many preteens report that completing their orthodontic treatment earlier turned out to be the best option for them.