As a parent, you have a lot to keep up with. From signing permission slips and helping with homework to sports practices and dance rehearsals, there are lots of plates for you to juggle. One of those plates is regular dental appointments, which you already know are important for maintaining your child’s oral health. But you may not know that early orthodontic evaluations play a key role in keeping their smile healthy, too!
In fact, these evaluations are such a useful tool that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child have one by the time they’re about 7 years old. Some parents are confused by this, since younger children still have developing mouths and many baby teeth remaining. But this actually works in our favor! When they’re combined with regular growth and development checks, these evaluations allow us to catch orthodontic issues in their earlier stages. This gives us the opportunity to correct problems before they can impact the teeth and bite.
Here at Griffin & Errera Orthodontics, we work with patients of all ages. Our team has treated many children over the years and seen firsthand how early evaluations can help set kids up for a lifetime of healthy smiles! If you have a young child ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to take a look at their teeth and see how their dental development is going. During this first visit, our doctors will be looking for signs of several common orthodontic issues. Let’s take a closer look at some of these and why they make a difference to your child’s smile!
Tooth loss and eruption
People tend to overlook baby teeth, especially since they all fall out eventually. But as the placeholders for our permanent teeth, where they’re located and when they’re lost matters more than you may think. These primary teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific pattern. If Dr. Griffin or Dr. Errera notices a significant deviation from this, it could mean there’s a developmental issue that requires more attention.
By the time they’re ready for an evaluation with us, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. If your child has any more or less than this, it could indicate that there may be missing, crowded, or extra teeth that require additional monitoring by our expert team.
Crowding and spacing
When you bring your child in for an evaluation, one of our doctors will perform an oral examination. They’ll be able to identify any issues with excessive crowding or spacing, whether they’re present now or likely to develop in the future. Spacing issues can arise if a tooth has been lost prematurely, if one has never developed, or when the teeth are too small or narrow. If crowding is causing a problem, we can often address it by extracting certain primary teeth. In more severe cases, our doctors may choose to use dental arch development and expansion.
Crooked teeth are challenging for children for several reasons. They’re more difficult to clean thoroughly and more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. When this is left untreated over time, it can compromise the surrounding gum tissue and may even change the shape and position of the gum line. Although we can successfully align teeth at almost any age, correcting certain issues early in life is a great way to give your child a head start on a healthy mouth!
Front teeth that obviously protrude are usually seen as more of a cosmetic concern, but the effects of an overbite pattern can go beyond appearances. Patients may experience pain in the jaw and excessive tooth wear. Some even have trouble managing normal speech patterns. Although we’ll usually want to wait until a child’s mouth has matured a bit before attempting to correct an overbite, there are still a number of things we can do to reduce the risk of pain and traumatic injury in the meantime. These corrective measures can also improve a child’s confidence in their smile as they grow.
When a child has an underbite, we will first need to determine whether it’s caused by problems with the eruption of the teeth or by the relationship of the jaws. This means that we’ll sometimes need to wait until the patient has finished growing before beginning comprehensive treatment. However, earlier measures can be taken to help avoid damage to the front teeth and encourage skeletal correction. Our underbite patients who receive treatment between the ages of 7-10 tend to be less likely to need corrective jaw surgery when they are older.
A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding and reduced function in the airway. It may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in early childhood as opposed to adulthood is more predictable and requires less pressure with less invasive appliances. Treating a posterior crossbite can help eliminate shifts in the bite that can lead to asymmetric jaw growth, will reduce crowding, and can also create space for the permanent teeth to erupt. Treatment may even improve the quality of a child’s airway.
Anterior Open Bites
When a child has an anterior open bite, the front teeth don’t overlap enough, which can result in poor function and excessive wear on the back teeth. It’s often caused by oral habits like extended finger or thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, or when a child uses a bottle or pacifier for too long. If that’s the case, our team will be happy to work with you both to help eliminate destructive habits so their dental development can continue normally.
Get your child’s smile off to a great start with Griffin & Errera Orthodontics
Now that you know what goes into an early orthodontic evaluation, it’s easy to see how important they can be to a child’s oral health! If our doctors don’t believe immediate treatment is indicated for your child, we’ll recommend regular checkups as they grow. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that our experienced orthodontists are monitoring their growth and dental development, ready to spring into action if any issues present themselves! If your child is ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation in our Middleburg, Warrenton, or Culpepper office. It’s the perfect way to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles!