Standards of care in orthodontics continue to change and improve, in the same manner as any other form of medical care. While years ago children would not be seen by an orthodontist until they lost all baby teeth, today we know better. We know that an early assessment of your child’s teeth and jaw can make a big difference in the quality of her smile.
The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that all children be evaluated by an orthodontist by age seven. By this age, most children have all four of the six-year molars and all four central incisors in place. The orthodontist can then identify any likely orthodontic problems and counsel the parents on when, if any, treatment should begin.
At this age the orthodontist can see how much space will be available for the teeth and whether or not the child’s teeth will come in correctly. Overcrowded teeth may force later-appearing teeth to come out on top of or below the gum line. Crowding in the back is not easily seen without an x-ray. If there are anticipated spacing problems, addressing them at an early age can ensure that there will be adequate room for remaining permanent teeth to grow in correctly.
The early treatment does not ensure that the child will not need braces later on. Early treatment is often referred to as two-phase treatment because most children (more than 90%) who have early treatment need further orthodontic treatment when the remaining permanent teeth are in place. A younger child whose teeth are under treatment may be spared the physical and social challenges that result when their teeth are poorly aligned or protrude from abnormal locations in the mouth. And treating at an early stage almost always means that the second phase of treatment – during the awkward years of adolescence – is easier and faster.