As a parent, you want the best for your child. That includes a beautiful smile that functions precisely as it should! Alba Orthodontics can help achieve just that, thanks to early treatment using a range of appliances. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though! The first step in any orthodontic journey is an early childhood evaluation. These are such important tools that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends every child has an evaluation by the time they’re seven years old. Let’s look at what you can expect from these visits and how we use them to create healthy smiles that last a lifetime!
Why are early childhood evaluations necessary?
For a smile that looks and feels good, your child needs a healthy bite—that is, teeth and jaws that are properly aligned. Some parents are confused by the AAO recommendation since a young child’s mouth is still developing and has several baby teeth left. This is actually the point of early evaluations!
When combined with regular growth and development checks, they allow experienced orthodontists like Dr. Fred and Dr. Jeff Alba to catch subtle problems with a child’s jaw growth and emerging teeth. If he spots an issue that would benefit from early treatment, he will recommend your child begin it at the appropriate time.
This approach can prevent orthodontic problems from damaging your child’s teeth and bite as they grow. Early evaluations and timely treatment go a long way towards giving kids the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles!
What will your orthodontist be looking for during an evaluation?
When you schedule a complimentary consultation with our Mechanicsburg office, there are several common issues your doctor will be looking for. These include:
Tooth loss and eruption
Many parents underestimate the importance of baby teeth, especially since they all fall out at some point anyway. However, these primary teeth are the placeholders for our permanent teeth. That means where they’re located and when they’re lost matters more than you may think!
Baby teeth also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order. If Dr. Fred or Dr. Jeff notice a significant deviation from this pattern, it could mean there’s a developmental issue that needs further attention.
As far as eruption goes, most kids will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors by the time they’re seven. When a child has more or less than this, it could indicate that there are missing, crowded, or extra teeth. These may require additional monitoring by your orthodontist.
Crowding and spacing
If your child is having problems with excessive crowding or spacing, your doctor will be able to determine if this is likely to be an issue now or in the future. We often see spacing issues arise from a tooth being lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or when the teeth are too small or narrow. If crowding is causing a problem, extracting certain primary teeth can help. In more severe cases, dental arch development and expansion may be useful.
Crooked teeth can pose quite a few challenges for children. They’re more difficult to brush and floss than straight teeth and more susceptible to uneven wear. This can compromise the surrounding gum tissue if left untreated and could eventually change the shape and position of the gum line. While we can successfully align teeth at almost any age, correcting certain malocclusions while a child is still growing can make treatment faster and more effective.
When a child has front teeth that noticeably protrude, it’s primarily seen as a cosmetic concern. However, the effects of an overbite go beyond appearances and may lead to jaw pain, excessive wear and tear to the teeth, and interrupted speech patterns.
We will typically want to wait until a child’s mouth has matured a bit before attempting to correct an overbite. In the meantime, there are a number of treatment options at Alba Orthodontics for reducing the risk of pain and traumatic injury as they grow! These corrective measures can also improve a child’s self-esteem by giving them more confidence in their smile.
If your child has an underbite, your orthodontist will first need to determine whether it’s been caused by a problem with the eruption of the teeth or by the jaw relationship. That may mean waiting until they are almost finished growing before we begin comprehensive treatment. The good news is that earlier measures can be taken to help avoid damage to the front teeth and encourage skeletal correction! When an underbite patient receives treatment between the ages of 7 and 10, they’re much less likely to need corrective jaw surgery when they’re older.
A posterior crossbite can have several symptoms, including crowding and reduced airway function. It may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. When we have the opportunity to expand the upper jaw in earlier childhood, it tends to require less pressure with less invasive appliances. The results may be more predictable, too. Treatment can help eliminate shifts in the bite that lead to asymmetric jaw growth. It can also reduce crowding and create space for permanent teeth to erupt.
What does early treatment consist of?
Early treatment with our expert team can help prevent or intercept more serious problems from developing. This may make treatment at a later age a shorter and less complicated process. In some cases, your orthodontist will be able to achieve results that may not be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing.
Expert orthodontists like Dr. Fred and Dr. Jeff Alba have the skills and experience to choose the best time for your child’s treatment, should they need it. Children receive braces at different times, but orthodontic treatment most often begins between 9 and 14 years old. As noted above, some problems are easier to correct if they’re diagnosed and treated early. Starting treatment at the most appropriate time will give your orthodontist the best chance to:
- guide jaw growth
- lower the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth
- correct harmful oral habits
- improve your child’s appearance and increase their self-confidence
- guide the permanent teeth into a more favorable position
- create a more pleasing arrangement of the teeth, lips, and face
Set your child up for success with a healthy smile from Alba Orthodontics
It’s not always easy to tell when your child may need braces or has an orthodontic problem. Even teeth that look straight may be hiding a problematic bite! However, there are some clues you can keep an eye out for that may indicate the need for orthodontic attention. These include:
- early or late loss of baby teeth
- difficulty chewing or biting
- breathing through the mouth
- crowded, misplaced, or blocked-out teeth
- jaws that are too far forward or back
- biting the cheek or biting into the roof of the mouth
- protruding teeth
- upper and lower teeth that don’t meet (or meet in an abnormal way)
- an unbalanced facial appearance
- grinding or clenching of the teeth
If your child has one or more of these dental issues, an orthodontic evaluation with Dr. Fred and Dr. Jeff Alba is the first place to start! We’d also love to meet you both if it’s time for your child’s first orthodontic visit. Schedule a FREE consultation with our Mechanicsburg office today. We look forward to helping your child achieve their happiest, healthiest smile!