By William Crutchfield, DDS
It’s rare for a child to need orthodontic treatment before the loss of baby teeth and the arrival of adult ones. As recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists, you should take your child to a Board-Certified orthodontist as early age the age of 7 for an initial consultation. Orthodontic specialists attended 2-3 years of additional schooling to earn the designation of specialist as defined by the American Association of Orthodontists
Get Your Child Evaluated as Early as Age 7
This first visit to a licensed orthodontist can provide early detection of problems such as crossbite, open bite, reversed bite, severe overbite, or airway problems. There also may be some social and bullying issues that may need to be addressed. It is most likely that your child won’t need any correction until baby teeth are gone and adult teeth are in place. That age differs for every individual, but it’s usually around 12-13 years old. However, there are several orthodontic and skeletal problems that can and should be treated earlier.
If no major development problems are apparent during that first consultation, a reputable orthodontist will put your child in a supervision program until those baby teeth fall out. Many will request an annual re-evaluation to keep an eye on patient growth and development.
If an orthodontist recommends starting a phase one treatment, get a second opinion. A second orthodontist may confirm the initial evaluation, in which case you could you proceed with more confidence. However, if the second opinion disagrees with the first, you could seek a third evaluation and decide from there. Just aligning some crooked teeth may not be a reason to start early treatment.
Why Pay for Braces Twice?
There are benefits to waiting for orthodontic treatment once a child nears adolescence.
Early childhood braces won’t guarantee the same smile once the child makes it to the growth phase. Many patients who were treated with early Phase 1 treatment will require a second round of orthodontic care near the pubertal growth spurt, usually around 11-13 years.
There are children with an underbite or a narrow upper arch in which early treatment is encouraged. But for most alignment issues, most orthodontists should recommend waiting while the child’s mouth is still growing and changing.
Take your 7 year old to an orthodontist for a professional evaluation. That way you’ll get an early diagnosis for a major bite or development issue and can start treatment when recommended. If your young child is like most, braces can wait until the teen years.
William Crutchfield, DDS is an orthodontist in Chantilly, Virginia and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics. He opened his own practice, Orthodontics by Crutchfield, more than 25 years ago. He provides the latest in digital orthodontic technology, speaks and writes on digital orthodontics, and sits on two orthodontic companies’ Advisory Boards. Dr. Crutchfield is the recipient of numerous awards including Best Dentist by Washingtonian Magazine and Best Dentist by Northern Virginia Living Magazine.
Great article Bill, but unfortunately I know many Board Certified orthodontists who recommend full braces when many primary teeth are still remaining and the child has years to go before reaching their pubertal growth spurt. I am afraid the Standard of Care is changing and not for the better.