Is it too early to take my child to an orthodontist?
As a parent you might be wondering when is the best time to take your child for their first orthodontic check up.
Parents and many dentists think we should take our kids for an orthodontic consult when all the baby teeth are gone and all adult teeth erupt. If you wait that long
IT IS TOO LATE!!!!
Your child's teeth and bite are a work in progress as they grow. There are many problems that can be avoided if treated early.
American and Canadian Association of Orthodontics recommend that every child be seen by an orthodontist by the age of 7 for a routine check up.
Here is a list of issues that can be treated easily when seen early:
Crowding or crooked teeth
A large lower jaw
Narrow upper jaw
Small lower jaw
Many of these if not treated early will make later treatment complicated or long and in some cases impossible.
Crowding or Crooked Teeth
Adult teeth are much bigger than baby teeth so they need more space. If a child shows crowding in baby teeth it is a warning sign that there is a problem.
Crowding happens when there is a mismatch between teeth size and jaw size.
If the child gets the small jaw from one parent and large teeth from the other parent then there won't be enough space for the teeth to sit straight.
Crowding can be handled easier when seen early as the orthodontist can monitor and in severe cases order extraction (pulling out teeth) to allow eruption of adult teeth.
What can go wrong?
Early crowding may cause gum recession which can be irreversible.
A severe lack of space may cause adult teeth not to erupt. These teeth may stay unerupted in the bone and become impacted.
A Large Lower Jaw
When the lower jaw is bigger than the upper jaw, it results in underbite.
In a normal bite upper front teeth sit in front of the lower teeth. When lower jaw is bigger than upper jaw it is the opposite. Lower teeth position in front of the upper teeth.
This can be treated only before the age of 8 or 9 years. When the childs grows bones mature and sutures of the bones close therefore this can not be fixed easily.
If left untreated, teeth may need to be extracted to fix the underbite. In severe cases jaw surgery is needed for treating large lower jaw.
Narrow Upper Jaw
If the upper jaw is narrower than the lower jaw the upper back teeth will sit inside of the lower back teeth.
In some cases, the child will shift his/her jaw to one side to have a more comfortable
Shifting the jaw in long term may cause asymmetrical growth of the jaw bone causing the chin to go off center.
Treating a narrow upper jaw is an easy process that can be done early. Early treatment prevents any asymmetry in the face.
Small Lower Jaw
Small lower jaw will cause the opposite problem. Upper front teeth will sit too far forward from the lower front teeth.
Small lower jaws are best treated before puberty. During the growth spurt that happens right before puberty treatment is done much faster and efficiently.
If that window is lost correcting the position of the teeth is only possible with extraction of teeth or jaw surgery in severe cases.
Front crossbite is when one or more upper front teeth sit behind the lower teeth.
In normal situations, the upper front teeth cover the lower when the child bites down.
Front crossbites need to be fixed right away. If left untreated it may cause the tooth to be chipped or broken or it may cause irreversible gum recession on lower teeth.
These are just a few issues that need to be dealt with sooner than later.
As a parent, you are not expected to be an expert in teeth! Find an orthodontist and take your child for a consult early. With many orthodontists offering complimentary consults, it is even easier to see one!
Dr. Dorrin Nilforoushan is an orthodontist practicing in Leaside, Toronto. She is a clinical instructor teaching orthodontics at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry. She is a mother of three kids and loves educating parents.
Tel: (416) 662-2555