Early orthodontic treatment might seem like over enthusiasm on the part of an orthodontist or dentist, but actually, there’s a logic, science and sense behind the recommendation.
Visiting an orthodontist for an assessment when your child is aged between seven and ten years could spare you and your child in the long run.
It can save you time, money, discomfort (yours and your child’s), and sanity (mostly yours). Orthodontic treatment can be challenging at times, making the preservation of sanity at any time a very important consideration.
Why do an early orthodontic assessment?
Much more than a financial or cosmetic decision, early assessment is about understanding what you’re working with. It’s also about gaining vision into what’s likely to achieve the best outcome for your child in terms of their health, confidence, physical appearance and profile, all factors which grow in importance as your child grows.
Who makes an early orthodontic assessment?
The good news is an orthodontist is the best person to make an early orthodontic assessment. This is an in chair examination during which your orthodontist will look for more serious bite related problems and the jaw’s growth pattern in your child.
While an orthodontist is the best person to make a qualified early orthodontic assessment of your child’s needs, there are clear signs to look out for if you’re the parent or carer.
Certain behaviours and characteristics are indicators or pointers to the need for orthodontic treatment. If you observe these in your child, it’s worthwhile getting along to an orthodontist to gain a clear understanding of what might be needed to prevent or reduce treatment in future.
- Early loss of baby teeth (before age five) – Most children start losing their baby teeth around 6 years of age, but some lose theirs earlier. This is a clear sign to investigate with the help of your orthodontist.
- If your child’s teeth do not meet properly when biting – This is observable when your child is eating. Try slowing things down a little to see how the upper and lower teeth come together. Nothing beats getting a second opinion on this, so start by asking your orthodontist.
- Mouth breathing and/or snoring – Kids can keep you awake at night for many reasons, but mouth breathing and snoring shouldn’t be among those. This is a ‘must check’ with your orthodontist.
- If your child’s front teeth are crowded (you generally won’t see this until the child is about seven or eight years old) – Sometimes when we’re looking at something all the time, we don’t see things as they are. An orthodontist trained to identify where crowding is or could occur is the best person to consult on this issue.
- Protruding front teeth – Front teeth protrude for many reasons – thumb sucking, tongue posture, and differential jaw growth. Although it’s important to understand why it’s occurred, what’s more important is to have measures in place to address it.
- Biting or chewing difficulties
- A speech impediment – As your child’s speech starts to develop beyond the very early years of garble, you may notice he or she has difficulty enunciating certain sounds. Often this is evident in children as a lisp.
- If your child’s jaw shifts when he or she opens or closes the mouth – You can observe this in the normal course of daily interaction with your child and it is most visible when they are biting together. If left untreated this can result in asymmetrical facial growth.
- If your child is older than five years and still sucks a thumb or finger – Who doesn’t love a bit of self-soothing? Kids are especially good at this, however beyond five years of age, thumb or finger sucking can have a detrimental effect on the eruption and position of the teeth and the growth of the jaws, which can lead to orthodontic treatment long term.
Still not sure if your child needs an early orthodontic assessment? There’s no easier way to find out than getting along to an orthodontist for advice. Unlike many other specialists, no referral is needed to see an orthodontist and some, like Specialty Orthodontics, offer free growth and monitoring checks after your child’s initial consult.
Only a specialist orthodontist has the training, experience and knowledge to determine the most appropriate treatment options and the best time to start treatment. When you see a specialist orthodontist you can be confident that your child is in the best hands.
Dr Sarah Dan is an orthodontist and the founder of Specialty Orthodontics.
Through her experience as a clinician and having orthodontic treatment herself, Sarah truly understands the orthodontics from the patient’s perspective. She ‘gets’ it and has developed her unique 5-Step Process to help patients navigate the treatment journey to a confident, beautiful smile.