As any parent can attest, the early childhood years are a time of rapid development. It can seem like every day your child learns something new or outgrows another pair of shoes. Your little one’s oral and facial development is no different. It’s because harnessing this growth can be so beneficial in certain cases that experts recommend kids have their first orthodontic evaluation by age seven. That might seem extremely young but there are a number of reasons why early orthodontic treatment at age seven is necessary and considered the ideal time.
- Why age seven?
- What happens at a child’s first orthodontic evaluation at Straight Smiles
- The orthodontic problems we watch for in kids
- What are the benefits of orthodontics for kids?
Why Age Seven?
By age seven, most kids have their first permanent molars, sometimes called the six-year molars. These teeth establish the back bite. At Straight Smiles, Dr. James Scramstad, a general dentist practicing orthodontics only, can get a clear picture of how your child’s bite (the way the upper and lower teeth come together) is shaping up.
Additionally, by seven, the majority of children will have started losing baby teeth and gaining permanent ones. If there are delays or impending crowding, Dr. Scramstad will be able to see this and make recommendations.
An orthodontic evaluation in no way automatically means appliances or braces for kids. Intervention isn’t usually necessary and we always treat children conservatively at Straight Smiles. Most of the time, kids will begin an observational period and continue to come in occasionally for visits over the years until it’s time for them to start treatment.
However, if certain bite issues, which we’ll get to later, are spotted, intercepting them while a child is still growing can allow us to prevent them from becoming more serious and will make later treatment easier and quicker. In some cases, orthodontics for kids can help children avoid needing surgery or extractions as teenagers or adults.
The first orthodontic evaluation also serves as a baseline exam. By completing it at age seven before all of the permanent teeth are in and the jaws are fully developed, Dr. Scramstad can see if there are deviations as your child continues to grow. Having a baseline also lets him pinpoint the ideal time to start treatment in the teenage years to achieve the best results.
Lastly, when children visit our Kelowna orthodontics practice at a young age, they get used to the sights and sounds of the office and develop a rapport with Dr. Scramstad and our team. They’ll feel much more comfortable when they do finally start treatment, which also makes things easier on parents as well.
What Happens at a Child’s First Orthodontic Evaluation at Straight Smiles?
When your child visits Straight Smiles in Kelowna for an orthodontic evaluation, they’ll receive a warm welcome. After you’re shown around our bright, modern office, a team member will get some information from you and, if needed, take digital x-rays and photos of your child’s smile.
Dr. Scramstad will perform a thorough exam of your little one’s mouth and assess their bite. He’ll chat with you about what he sees and walk you through his findings, if there are any.
If Dr. Scramstad does see a problem, he’ll go over the diagnosis in-depth. He’ll discuss your child’s personalized treatment recommendations, help you weigh the pros and cons, and answer any questions you have. If you decide you’re ready to start treatment, we’ll provide you with a written financial quote and go over your insurance coverage, the cost of treatment and our flexible financing options.
However, as we said, most of the time, appliances or braces for kids aren’t necessary at age seven. Instead, Dr. Scramstad will enter your child into our Growth and Development Program. This is where we monitor your child until it’s time to start treatment – that is if they do eventually need treatment at all. When you finish up the evaluation, Dr. Scramstad will let you know when your child should come back for another visit.
The Orthodontic Problems We Watch for in Kids
So, what are the emerging orthodontic problems we can see at age seven that could warrant early intervention or a closer watch? The common concerns and bite issues in kids that we look for include:
- The premature loss of baby teeth
- Front and back crossbite
- Open bite
- Deep bite or overbite
- Protruding front teeth
- Oral habits like thumb sucking, tongue thrust or mouth breathing
Again, not every bite issue will be serious enough to require treatment, such as an expander or braces for kids. However, there are times when a child’s teeth look straight but there is a bite problem only a professional can detect. This is why, regardless of how your child’s teeth and jaw look, it’s still important to have an orthodontic evaluation.
What are the Benefits of Orthodontics for Kids?
When early orthodontic treatment, sometimes called interceptive orthodontic treatment or phase 1 orthodontic treatment, is necessary, there a number of important benefits, such as:
- Fixing crowded teeth or preventing crowding by making space for the permanent teeth to come in correctly
- Guiding jaw growth and correcting facial asymmetry
- Reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
- Helping kids chew, speak and breathe properly
- Preventing the need for extractions
- Avoiding the need for corrective jaw surgery
- Reducing the length and cost of braces or Invisalign Teen treatment in the teenage years
- Correcting crossbites
- Breaking harmful oral habits
- Boosting kids’ confidence and self-esteem!
If you’re ready to schedule your child’s first orthodontic evaluation to ensure their smile development is on track, schedule a visit at Straight Smiles today. Our Kelowna orthodontic practice is kid-friendly and fun, and we strive to make visits convenient, enjoyable and stress-free for kids and parents alike. Request an appointment online or give us a call at 250-762-2824.