Parents often believe that their child’s first orthodontist appointment should occur after all of their permanent teeth have appeared. However, to achieve optimal results, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children be screen by an orthodontist no later than age 7.
Why Age 7?
Most children have a mix of baby and permanent teeth by age 6 or 7, including what is known as the child’s six year molars. Once these molars are in place, an orthodontist can identify how a child’s bite is likely to develop and anticipate problems to be treated. In addition, a child often receives his or her first panoramic x-ray around this time. This important procedure will identify if your child is missing any adult teeth or if there are deviations from normal tooth eruption of the permanent teeth. Either of these issues could lead to complications later, and your orthodontist will create a plan to address them now.
Why Can’t our Pediatric Dentist Address These Issues?
Dentists and orthodontists view the mouth differently. A dentist addresses overall oral health, and x-rays, usually bite-wings, are taken for diagnosis and treatment purposes, such as a cavity or tooth infection. The dentist is concerned about the health of the teeth and gums rather than orthodontic needs.
In contrast, orthodontists are focused on a child’s bite. Panoramic x-rays are used to capture a view of all the teeth, both above and below the gums, and the jaw. This comprehensive image allows an orthodontist to understand the current needs of your child and identify issues that are likely to arise later. With this information the orthodontist will create a phased treatment plan to assure the best outcome for your child.
Do I need a Referral?
You do not need to ask your dentist for a referral to bring your child to an orthodontist or even wait until your child is 7 years old. It is appropriate to wait if there are no visual problems, but is still important to bring your child in for an evaluation appointment. Do not wait until your child is aged 7 if you notice that he or she:
- Loses baby teeth early or late;
- Has difficulty chewing or biting;
- Breathes through their mouth;
- Sucks their thumb;
- Has crowded, misplaced or blocked-out teeth;
- Has a jaw that shifts or makes sounds;
- Has difficulty speaking;
- Bites their cheek or the roof of their mouth;
- Has teeth that meet abnormally, or don’t meet at all;
- Has a facial imbalance;
- Grinds or clenches their teeth; or
- Has jaws that appear too far forward or too far back.
Each of these issues may reflect an underlying problem and the sooner these problems are addressed, the more effective the treatment.
If your child is over the age of 7 and has not received an orthodontic evaluation, it isn’t too late. For younger children, schedule an appointment no later than age 7, to assure that everything is fine or identify issues early when they are more easily treated.
At DeDomenico Orthodontics, we provide evaluations for children of all ages, and will establish a phased treatment plan for your child if needed. We are here to help, and if you have any questions please call us at (813)961-1313 or go online to schedule an appointment. With our four office locations in Tampa, Odessa, Brooksville and Lutz, we should have one that is convenient for you.