What is the right age to take my child to an Orthodontist?

- August 09, 2019

As a specialist orthodontist, we like to see a child when they’re 7-8 years old.

This also coincides with the eruption of the permanent front teeth, to asses if there is likely to be any need for treatment. Modern orthodontics takes a holistic approach to the overall wellbeing of a child, in addition to the teeth and jaws, we look at facial growth and development as well as function and breathing. It is a common misconception that orthodontics deals only with straightening crooked teeth – this is only one part of orthodontics!

At an initial assessment, we will evaluate any existing and potential problems. We can explain which issues are likely to resolve by themselves and identify any areas that may require monitoring. More importantly we can let you know, iftreatment is needed and when is the best time for it to be done. Recent techniques, when used in a timely manner, allow us to guide or modulate the growth of the jaws in such a way as to reduce and sometimes eliminate the need for complex future treatment or the need for extractions.

So all children should have early treatment if they need orthodontics?

No!! Timing is the key. Early assessment does not equal early treatment, it mainly allows us to time treatment correctly to be most effective as well as efficient. There are many stories floating around on the internet of 4-5 year long orthodontic treatments. In most cases these protracted courses of treatment can be avoided through well timed effective treatments.

Once a child is seen for an assessment they are usually enrolled in our growth and development follow up programme. Based on their needs they may be recalled if/when treatment would be necessary.

At Impressions Orthodontics, we strongly believe in minimizing the burden of treatment staying clear of “over-treatment.” We like to limit the amount of treatment delivered at an early age to that which delivers a proven long term benefit, and positively impacts future development.

So when is the best time for orthodontic treatment?

It is a common misconception that orthodontic treatment should only be performed when all the adult teeth have erupted. In many cases this is too late.

Some bite and jaw development issues are best treated at a young age before puberty while baby teeth are still present. Other problems are best addressed during the growth spurt that accompanies puberty when the adult teeth are coming through. After all, the face and mouth are complex structures, and different parts grow and mature at different stages in a child’s development. Correct timing ensures that we benefit from natural growth to help the treatment and prevent certain bite problems from getting worse or negatively impacting the developing teeth and jaws.

Beware of marketing claims!

The internet is flooded with marketing claims by appliances that promise to achieve straight teeth without braces or claim to enhance jaw development. Most of these treatments are delivered by non-specialists and unfortunately many are a form of over-treatment in themselves. These appliances capitalise on the fact that most parents do not know that some of the things that may look weird or crooked in growing children are in fact normal and tend to rectify themselves naturally without any intervention. Many of the success stories on these websites are conditions that would have resolved if left to nature. What we prefer is a tailored approach where a child is assessed individually, and treatment that will deliver a beneficial and proven outcome will only be administered when necessary.

What are some of the issues that require early intervention?

Here are some examples:

  • Excessive crowding: early treatment can reduce the need for extractions in the future
  • Crossbites (also known as “underbite”)
  • Large overbites
  • Extra teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Delayed tooth eruption
  • Underdeveloped upper jaw
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea, excessive mouth breathing and snoring
  • Chronic “thumb or finger’ sucking habits
  • Protrusive front teeth at risk to trauma

What are the benefits of an early intervention?

  • Normalising the growth environment for both the teeth and soft tissue such as the lips and tongue.
  • Preventing abnormal tooth wear on the adult teeth.
  • Reducing or eliminating the need for extractions.
  • Reducing the risk of trauma.

An assessment with a specialist orthodontist that is taken between ages 7 – 8 years old allows us to make a tailored long term plan that ensures that the child has the best possible outcome with the least burden of care.