The AAO recommends that your child see an orthodontist by the age of seven. At this time their permanent molars have come in, and any early orthodontic issues will slowly begin to present themselves.
Orthodontic treatment at this age is known as preventative dentistry, or interceptive orthodontics, and can be easier to address given how issues such as crowding and crooked teeth can be easier to address in children. Going through treatment early in life can save them the trouble in the future, improve their oral hygiene, and get them a healthy smile early in life. So, what should you expect?
- The Process
Your child will first receive a consultation during this process, where their orthodontist will assess what their issues are, and be able to give them a proper diagnosis. Many children’s orthodontists know to speak in child-friendly language and use tactics that make children feel comfortable during exams and check-ups. Though seeing an orthodontist at a young age can be intimidating, their orthodontist will do everything possible to make sure they feel at ease.
Once they’ve received their diagnosis, their orthodontist will create a treatment plan that’s built to be entirely customized to them and their needs. Many children may get a palatal expander that works to expand their upper dental arch, reducing crowding and creating more room in their mouth. This is an early prevention technique that doesn’t involve a lot of hardware. The expander it periodically turned and adjusted, gradually widening the jaw creating more room for their adult teeth to properly grow in. This minimizes the likeliness of future overcrowding in the mouth.
Children may also need braces, and their orthodontist will be able to recognize when there’s a need for them. While traditional metal braces will often be what’s recommended, clear braces may be a viable option for your child depending on the complexity and nature of their case.
- Caring For Their Braces
Especially in their younger years, your child may not entirely understand the concept of proper oral hygiene. As their parent, you should work to instill an understanding of the importance of maintaining dental hygiene, especially while they’re undergoing orthodontic treatment.
It’s so easy for food to get trapped in braces as is, and your child needs to be extra careful about brushing to ensure nothing stays trapped. It’s important that you monitor your child’s brushing and flossing habits, especially if they’re very young, to ensure they’re cleaning all the brackets and wires, as well as their entire mouth. If they’re too young to bear the full responsibility, help them brush and floss so they maintain great oral hygiene.
It’s also important that you schedule their regular check-ups, and maintain that schedule. They will need to have their braces tightened periodically, their progress monitored, and potential adjustments made along the way to accommodate any new or unexpected movement. All of these appointments are crucial for the success of your child’s treatment.
- How Will It Help My Child?
Orthodontic treatment isn’t just cosmetic, and has the potential to improve both their oral and overall health. Treatment will help your child bite and chew properly, improve their pronunciation, and speech. You can also go into the specifics with your child’s orthodontist about what has been bothering them, and they’ll ensure their treatment plan is completely customized to target those areas and make improvements.
Your child’s self-confidence and self-esteem can also experience improvement through a straighter, healthier smile. While physically being in braces isn’t always a fashion statement, the pay-off is entirely worth it. Getting treatment out of the way early in life guarantees a healthy smile they’ll be able to show off for life.
Minimizing the risk of gum disease, cavities and other oral health issues can also do wonders for their oral health. While regular dentist appointments for cleanings and check-ups certainly won’t lose their importance, it’s likely that major dental work won’t need to be done when they do attend them. Straight teeth are easier to clean, healthier, and pose less risk for developing complicated oral health issues later on. What better gift can you give your child than a poster worthy, healthy smile?
- How Can I Tell If My Child May Need Orthodontic Treatment?
While there aren’t any sure, designated signs that your child will definitely need braces later in life, there are some common habits that can be indicative of this.
- Teeth that are very obviously protruding at awkward and unnatural angles may be a sign that treatment is needed. If a smile is cosmetically flawed, this means it may be very prone to gum disease and other oral health issues.
- A thumb sucking habit that goes on after the age of five can also be the cause of orthodontic issues. This can push and offset the front upper teeth, creating the need for some sort of appliance or braces to straighten them out.
- Speech impediments and breathing difficulties may also be a sign that they should see an orthodontist. Your orthodontist will be able to determine why these issues are happening, and work to correct them.
- Helping Them Through Treatment
Orthodontic treatment can be hard on everyone at times, and may be even more difficult for them due to their age. Make sure you’re encouraging, and remind your child that you’re there for them every step of the way. With the help of both you and their orthodontist, they’ll be well on their way to a successful treatment, with an awesome support system to boot.