This is probably the most common question concerned parents typically ask me. And as a father of 3 adorable kids, I completely understand. We want to take care of our children’s needs and we want to be sure we don’t miss anything. With that understanding; according to the American Association of Orthodontists, the best age for children to be seen by an orthodontist for the first time is 7. Why age 7? Most problems can be identified by that age. And although not all can be treated at that point, sometimes there are minimally invasive interventional procedures that can be done that will really set your child’s teeth up for success as they get older. Here are a few things I look for in young children:
Tooth Loss and Eruption: Teeth fall out in a very specific pattern, and deviations from this pattern may indicate that a child has developmental issues that need attention.
Crowding and Spacing: By age 7, it is possible to tell if a child has a problem with excessive crowding or spacing. Sometimes we intervene at this young age to gain some space, other times we wait and resolve these issues when all the permanent teeth are in the mouth.
Underbites: it is important to try and normalize the anterior bite as early as possible to eliminate bite shifting and damage to the front teeth due to traumatic occlusion. Also, studies have shown that correction of underbites are more stable when the patient is younger. If I notice an anterior underbite at age 7, I will recommend trying to at least “jump the bite” at that age, even though definitive correction may not be accomplished until later in their teenage years.
Posterior Crossbites: Not only do posterior crossbites create crowding, they may also cause the jaw to shift laterally, (to one side or the other). Expanding the upper jaw at age 7 can reduce the crowding and create the space necessary for the eruption of the anteriors. This can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper arch.
I recommend screening ALL young patients at age 7, so that these and other conditions can be identified and corrected as early as possible. These screenings are complimentary, so there is really nothing to lose. I do try to postpone treatment until all the adult teeth are in the mouth if possible, however sometimes it can be incredibly beneficial to start treatment young. These interceptive treatments can make the final results faster, better, and give your children an additional three to four years of having a great smile at an age when their self-image is developing. If you have a child who is 7 or older, why not set up a screening with an orthodontist today?
A note about the author: Dr. Daniel Gross grew up in Eastern Long Island, NY he attended Queens College where he graduated with a degree in Psychology and Magna Cum Laude honors, he than attended SUNY Stony Brook for Dental school where he graduated with a DDS degree as well as Magna Cum Laude honors and he was accepted into the prestigious OKU honor society. He than attended the University of Detroit Mercy Orthodontic program where he received a certificate in Orthodontics and a Masters in Science for defending his thesis on “Effect of Occlusal Changes on Sagittal Condylar Position using CBCT as compared with the Condyle Positioner Indicator (CPI).”