Your child’s health and happiness are important to you. That’s
why you try to make sure they get enough exercise and eat healthy snacks.
You should also be concerned about their oral health. Strong teeth, healthy
gums and a beautiful smile start with regular visits to the dentist.
The American Dental Association says this should begin within six
months of the first baby teeth emerging and no later than age 1.

In addition to seeing the dentist from infancy, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO)
recommends that all children meet with an orthodontist no later than age
7 for a check-up. By this age, an orthodontist can identify subtle problems
that can be easier to correct when found early. If you notice the presence
of an orthodontic problem prior to age 7, don’t hesitate to schedule
an appointment for your child at Speaks Orthodontics any time.

Why 7 Years Old is the Right Age

By age 7, your child has lost enough baby teeth for an orthodontist to
determine if any bite or tooth alignment problems are present or developing
among the permanent teeth. Putting off a check-up until all the permanent
teeth have come in could be a disservice to your child. After all, some
problems are easier to treat before the face and jaws have finished growing.

Determining the Right Time for Treatment

Many orthodontic treatments begin between ages 9 and 14. If Dr. Speaks determines your child needs
treatment, but it’s not yet time, you can receive a recommended
timeline. This is a much better option than being surprised with a sudden
need for treatment later down the road.

Still, some children benefit from earlier treatment. Dr. Speaks may decide
to pursue orthodontic correction for the following reasons:

  • Guide jaw growth
  • Guide permanent teeth to a better position
  • Lower trauma to protruding front teeth
  • Correct damaging oral habits, such as thumb-sucking
  • Improve the way the lips meet
  • Improve appearance and self-esteem

Watching for Signs of Orthodontic Problems

As your child gets all her baby teeth and some of her permanent teeth,
be on the lookout for signs of orthodontic problems:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth: Stay up-to-date with child oral development stages. For instance, all
    primary teeth should have erupted by the time your child is 2 or 3 years
    old. Also, shortly after turning 4, your child’s jaw will grow and
    spaces will develop between the baby teeth. This is a natural growth process
    to make room for larger permanent teeth.
  • Difficulty chewing or biting: If your child ever complains that it hurts to eat, that’s a sign
    she has a bite problem and needs to see an orthodontist.
  • Breathing through the mouth: This could mean your child feels at ease with her jaw in a more open position
    than is desirable.
  • Unbalanced facial appearance: A crooked, protruding or retrusive chin could indicate a bite problem.
  • Thumb-sucking: During the first few years, sucking on a pacifier, bottle or thumb won’t
    hurt your child’s oral health. However, if the habit continues after
    baby teeth start falling out, bite problems could develop.
  • Crooked teeth: Ask to check your child’s teeth every few months. Look for crowded,
    misplaced or protruding teeth that could signify the need for braces.
  • Bite problems: While you’re having a close look at your child’s teeth, ask
    her to bite down. Overbites, under bites, open bites and cross bites are
    easier to correct when the jaw is still growing.
  • Teeth grinding or clenching: Have a sleepover in your child’s room one night. If you wake up
    to squeaking or grinding sounds coming from your child’s mouth,
    she grinds her teeth in her sleep. This can cause tooth, gum and bite
    problems but can be easily corrected with a mouth guard.