When is the Right Time to Start Your Child to See a Pediatric Orthodontist?
Children are constantly growing and changing. As a result, it can be difficult to determine when they are ready for the next stage of healthcare – and that includes orthodontics. How do you know if your child needs retainers? What about braces?
It is generally recommended that your child sees an orthodontist by age 7. However, as teeth and jaw development differs with each child, there really is no right age. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be prepared!
DOES MY CHILD NEED ORTHODONTIC CARE?
Because there isn’t an exact age your child should see an orthodontist, you should be on the lookout for any warning signs. Below are some signs that can help you determine the right time to take your child to an orthodontist:
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Noticeable overbite
- Teeth overlap or gaps
- Protruding teeth
- Breathing exclusively through the mouth
- Thumb sucking
- Trouble chewing
- Speech impediments
- Tongue thrusting
- Misaligned or crooked teeth
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Crowded front teeth
- Shifting of the jaw
While these signs don’t guarantee that your child needs treatment, they do warrant a trip to the orthodontist to rule out any problems.
TYPES OF ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT
There are various types of orthodontic treatment. The types your child may need depends on the exact problems with their teeth or jaw. Below are the common pediatric orthodontic treatment options:
Braces aid in aligning and straightening teeth. There are a number of reasons your child may need braces:
- Crooked, overlapping, or overcrowded teeth
- Overbite, when the upper jaw is bigger than the lower jaw
- Underbite, when the lower jaw is bigger than the upper jaw
If your child is experiencing these problems, your orthodontist will decide on the best time to start treatment, if it’s necessary. Oftentimes, treatment with braces begins once a child has lost most of their baby teeth and the majority of their adult teeth have grown in.
Retainers help close gaps in teeth and realign them. Retainers also:
- Help with speech problems
- Help prevent tongue thrusts, when the tongue sneaks between the teeth when they talk
- Treat temporomandibular disorder (TMD), a disorder that causes children to grind their teeth in their sleep
- Hold teeth in position after braces are removed
There isn’t a specific age at which children should be considered for retainers, but it is important that you bring your child to an orthodontist to prevent issues from arising in the future.
Orthodontic headgear is often used to correct severe “bite” problems. It also helps alter the alignment of your child’s jaw by putting tension on braces. Orthodontic headgear is also used to:
- Increase space between teeth so that others grow in
- Treat overbites, underbites, overjet (“buck teeth”, when the upper front teeth protrude at an outward angle toward the lip), and crossbites (when the upper and lower teeth do not align when they bite down)
Children should wear their orthodontic headgear between 12 to 14 hours a day. With more severe jaw alignment problems, children may need to wear orthodontic headgear up to 22 hours daily.
When children lose their baby teeth prematurely, they may need to wear space maintainers to support their mouth until the gaps are filled with permanent teeth. Space maintainers are also used to:
- Prevent surrounding teeth from becoming loose due to improper support
- Ensure the child develops permanent teeth in correct locations
Keep in mind that space maintainers aren’t necessary if your child loses primary teeth to make way shortly for permanent ones. Consult with your orthodontist to determine whether maintainers are a suitable option.
If you have any questions about treating teeth/jaw alignment problems, call your dentist. Also, consider getting a referral to a pediatric orthodontist in case your child needs treatment. Contact us today to learn more.