The American Association of Orthodontics recommends children getting an evaluation by an orthodontist at the age of 7 because by then, children will have their 6-year molars and at least 2 upper or lower permanent front teeth. With these teeth in place, orthodontists can provide a very accurate diagnosis, treatment plan and timetable for future treatment, says Dr. Audrey Yoon, an orthodontist with Mid Wilshire Dentistry in Los Angeles, California. As every child grows differently, Dr. Yoon recommends visiting an orthodontist once you notice any problems with your child's teeth.
While an orthodontic exam is recommended at age 7, that doesn't mean braces would be recommended at that age, as 90% of the time, it will be just an exam, Dr. Yoon says. Screenings are done at this age to look for problems such as severe skeletal-jaw discrepancy, impacted teeth and bad habits before they become more severe and if detected early enough, future jaw surgery can be prevented and the final result can be achieved better.
As a parent, if you're concerned about your child's smile, Dr. Yoon says to look for jaw alignment problems, fractured teeth, impacted teeth, permanent teeth growing into the wrong spot, thumb sucking habits, lip biting or tongue thrusting habits, cross bites and overbites, because those are all signs to bring them to an orthodontist for an evaluation.
Normal jaw structure is when the upper jaw is slightly wider and bigger than the lower jaw so that when you bite down, the upper teeth are supposed to wrap around the lower teeth. With a cross bite, the position of one or more teeth are reversed and it can lead to pain, discomfort, trauma and lack of confidence. Dr. Yoon says a lot of times, the cross bite will create a bite interference so that the jaw is shifted to one side, which can lead to asymmetrical growth of the jaw, where one side of the jaw grows more than the other. If a cross bite is left untreated, it will require more extensive treatment later on in life.
Dr. Yoon says there are 2 common ways that braces can impact the lifestyle of a child. If a child is active in sports, protective gear should be worn, such as a mouth guard, even if the league doesn't require them. Secondly, some children don't find the metal braces very attractive so, if they are an appropriate candidate, Invisalign is a good option for moving teeth without fixed metal braces. If not, ceramic braces can be another option, as well as lingual braces where the braces are hidden on the inside of your teeth.
Dr. Audrey Yoon in an orthodontist with Mid Wilshire Dentistry in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Yoon spoke with Sleep Better TV, providing online, on-demand sleep breathing disorder and dental news content. Sleep Better TV is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.