Your Child Should See An Orthodontist By Age 7

Sep 28, 2018
Dr. Ed Grubaugh

The term orthodontics tends to come with certain connotations, and the image of a teenager in braces is probably the most persistent image associated with it. It can often be surprising to learn that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends a child have their first orthodontic evaluation around the age of seven. This seems odd to some people since children this young still have baby teeth and developing mouths, but that’s actually the point! An initial exam at this age by an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Grubaugh can catch any potential orthodontic issues early, before they have a chance to become more problematic. This can help prevent any negative impact on the future permanent teeth.   

Here at Grubaugh Orthodontics, we believe strongly in preventative care. We see a number of young patients, and starting individualized treatment at the right time can truly make a positive difference to their overall oral health. We offer a complimentary initial consultation, during which Dr. Grubaugh will check for a number of issues to determine if orthodontic treatment is indicated. If you have a child who is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, keep reading below to learn more about what we’ll be looking for!

Tooth Loss and Eruption

Even though baby teeth fall out, they are still important. As the placeholders for permanent teeth, where they are located and when they come out matters more than you might think. These primary teeth will generally fall out in a fairly specific order, so if we notice any significant deviation from this pattern, it could signify a developmental issue that needs attention.

By around the age of seven, children should have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has more or less than this, it could be an indication of a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. Sometimes we may choose to remove a primary tooth early or we may want to maintain a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely in order to prevent bigger problems later on.

Dr. Grubaugh working with a patient

Crowding and spacing

An experienced orthodontist will often be able to tell early on in your child’s life if they already have problems with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth, or are likely to develop such problems later on. Spacing issues can show up when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced apart. If crowding is the issue, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth.

Misalignment

We are able to successfully align teeth at almost any age. In fact, over a quarter of current orthodontic patients are over the age of eighteen. However, crooked teeth are more susceptible to uneven damage and wear. Allowing this to go untreated can affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue over time, compromising it. Correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age can prevent some of this excessive wear and tear, and also has the added benefit of increasing your child’s confidence in their smile.

Overbite (or protrusive front teeth)

Aside from the cosmetic appearance concerns, front teeth that are obviously protruding can cause pain in the jaw and possible speech issues. While we can’t always permanently correct an overbite until your child’s mouth has finished growing, there are many things we can do to help reduce the severity of the problem. This tends to make things easier for them until that growth is complete.

Underbite

An underbite can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward, and in cases like that, we’ll typically need to wait until the patient has finished growing to finish their treatment, usually around age 16 or so. Even with a waiting period involved, early treatment is paramount to avoid bite-shifting and damage to the front teeth. We have various methods we can use to try and normalize the bite as much as possible, as early as possible. This includes something called “jump the bite,” using braces or headgear to get a handle on a young child’s underbite before completing treatment in their teenage years. Underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of about 7-10 are much less likely to need jaw surgery at an older age.

Posterior Crossbite

Posterior crossbites can cause crowding, and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. By expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood, we can reduce any crowding and create the kind of space necessary to allow the front teeth to come through uninterrupted. Expansion can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw.

Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites

These are problems with the bite that occurs vertically, and can be spotted by the time your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting. This can indicate a small lower jaw. In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough, and this may be a sign that there is a finger, thumb, or tongue habit causing dental problems. If that’s the case, our team will work with you and your child to eliminate any destructive habits early on so that development can continue normally.

Dr. Grubaugh working

Early evaluations with Grubaugh Orthodontics equal healthier smiles

Early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of giving your child the best chance for an aligned, healthy smile that will last a lifetime. Most children will lose all their baby teeth by the time they’re entering their teen years. Throughout those years, the jaw bones will harden and eventually stop growing. Any orthodontic procedures performed after this point will often take more time, and can sometimes involve things like a tooth extraction or oral surgery. Receiving early orthodontic treatment as a child can help prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, reducing the need for extractions or surgery in the future.

Although some treatments do require all the permanent teeth being erupted, interceptive treatment like these early orthodontic evaluations can make comprehensive treatment faster and better. Delaying orthodontic evaluations until there’s an actual problem can end up costing more time and money, and result in more intensive treatment for your child.

As important as early evaluations are, it’s equally important to choose an orthodontist who is highly trained, skilled, and experienced. Dr. Grubaugh is a board-certified orthodontist who has been published in leading orthodontic journals and also teaches at Ohio State University in the Department of Orthodontics as a Clinical Assistant Professor. Many local area dentists and physicians have chosen Dr. Grubaugh to treat their children and family members, and with his credentials and reputation for excellent results, it’s not hard to see why!

At Grubaugh Orthodontics, we take pride in creating a fun, family-friendly, stress-free orthodontic experience for our patients and parents alike. If you’re in Lansing, DeWitt, or the surrounding communities, and are ready to schedule your child’s first orthodontic appointment, get in touch today to schedule a complimentary consultation. This is the perfect time to take the first step towards a beautiful, healthy smile!



Dr. Grubaugh smiling with patient