My recommendation for the first orthodontic appointment is age 7. Why so early? It’s true that for most children and young people, the best age for orthodontic treatment is when all the adult teeth are through, from the age of about 11-12. But for a minority of patients, early intervention may be recommended and can be beneficial.
What would I be looking for at that first appointment? The dental problems which can be helped with early intervention are:
- An increased overjet – with this condition, the upper teeth seem to be prominent and ‘stick out’. Treatment may help reduce the prominence of the teeth and lower the risk of damage to the teeth if the child falls over.
- An underbite, or reverse overjet, where the lower teeth bite in front of the upper teeth, which may result in chipping or wear of the teeth. Treatment may help guide the teeth into a more favourable position to prevent damage to the tooth enamel.
These situations may be corrected by harnessing the natural growth of the jaws and/ or by changing the position of the teeth to allow normal development of the teeth.
An early appointment has other benefits too. An orthodontist will be able to identify, with the use of X-rays, if there are missing teeth or extra teeth present which can affect the normal development and eruption of the teeth.
Thumb sucking or digit sucking is a habit that is very hard to stop in children. A visit to the orthodontist means that you can discuss how to manage this habit and appropriate advice may be provided on strategies to stop the habit as it can cause problems with the normal development of the teeth.
So how can parents tell if their child will benefit from early intervention treatment? It’s usually not possible for parents to know if their child has a dental problem that would benefit from treatment. Which is why I would always recommend bringing your child to see me to get a specialist opinion.
Dental Check by One – #DCby1 – is the campaign the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry, has created to build awareness of the important first dental appointment. Now, perhaps it’s time for an ”ortho check by the age of seven” campaign? How about #Orthocheckby7
If you want more information on the best time to see an orthodontist, the American Association of Orthodontists has produced some guidelines.