How an Early Orthodontic Evaluation Affects a Successful Outcome

An early orthodontic evaluation is important

Well-timed orthodontic care can improve your child’s health and confidence for a lifetime.

When it comes to orthodontics—as with so many other things in life—timing is everything. Ensuring that your child gets interceptive orthodontic care right when they need it can make all the difference in their treatment results, long-term care, and lifelong oral health. This is why early orthodontic appointments are so vital. They give you the knowledge you need to plan and prepare for future orthodontic treatments or to begin treating issues now.

If you’re just beginning to look into your child’s orthodontic care, you may not know how important it is to make an early orthodontic appointment or when you should do so. Thankfully, you don’t have to figure out these details alone! We want the best long-term results for your child while keeping the process as easy and stress-free as possible for both of you, so we’ve put together a guide on early orthodontic evaluations and how they can affect your child.

When should my child have their first orthodontic evaluation?

You should take your child for their first orthodontic appointment by the time they reach seven years old. This might sound early to you, but the timing is actually perfect! By seven years old, enough of your child’s adult teeth have erupted for dentists to predict how the rest of their adult teeth will erupt, including predicting future orthodontic issues like overcrowding or overbites. 

Should I still schedule an evaluation if I can see my child’s teeth are straight?

Yes, you should! Even if their teeth look straight, your child could still have orthodontic issues like a misaligned bite or overcrowding. These issues aren’t always easy to spot visually, especially since many of your child’s teeth aren’t visible when they smile, so it’s always best to have a trained professional who is experienced in identifying and treating these issues evaluate your child. 

They know exactly what to look for during their evaluation and will use advanced technology like X-rays to examine your child’s teeth and bite, including any adult teeth that are still developing beneath the surface. This allows them to spot issues even if your child’s bite looks straight.

What does the dentist check for at an evaluation?

When your family dentist performs an orthodontic evaluation, they’ll look for several signs of malocclusion through both an oral evaluation and X-rays. Your child’s dentist will look out for indicators of malocclusion like an overbite, underbite, crossbite, and open bite, all of which are issues with the way that your child’s bite and teeth fit together. 

They’ll also look for protruding or crooked teeth, missing teeth, a jaw imbalance, and damage to the inside of your child’s cheeks or the roof of their mouth. Injuries to these areas can be a solid indication that a misaligned bite is causing your child to accidentally bite the inside of their cheeks or is causing their teeth to rub against the roof of their mouth.

Additionally, they’ll look out for oral habits that can indicate a misaligned bite, such as mouth breathing and bruxism, as well as habits like thumb-sucking that can lead to orthodontic issues. Thumb-sucking is completely normal for young children, but when it’s continued past the age of five, it can negatively impact your child’s teeth, causing their front teeth to stick out farther than they should.

What interventions can be used at a younger age?

Two of the main interceptive orthodontic care treatments that can be used at a younger age are palatal expanders and space maintainers. Palatal expanders are used to create more room in your child’s mouth to relieve overcrowding. The device does this by expending constant, gentle pressure on the roof of your child’s mouth to spread the plates there apart little by little. Since these plates haven’t fused yet, they simply grow to fill the new gap between them. This treatment is often started around seven or eight years old and provides permanent results by guiding the growth of your child’s jaws to create more room for their teeth.

Space maintainers are another incredibly useful early orthodontic treatment, but they’re incredibly simple. Your child’s baby teeth perform the essential job of saving space for your adult teeth to erupt in and guiding them into place. When your child loses baby teeth too early, the rest of their baby teeth can begin to shift into the new gap, preventing their adult teeth from erupting properly when they’re ready. 

This can lead to issues like overcrowding, impacted teeth, or teeth that erupt crooked. When a baby tooth is lost too soon or never develops, space maintainers do the simple but vital job of holding the spot, preventing your child’s other teeth from shifting into it and allowing their adult teeth to develop and erupt normally.

How do these treatments impact my child’s future?

Some orthodontic issues, such as overcrowding, are best treated early. Doing so can reduce or eliminate the need for future, more invasive treatments like tooth extractions while reducing the severity and shortening the treatment time of future treatments your child may need like braces or clear aligners. They can also help your child’s teeth erupt straighter and healthier, as well as decrease your child’s likelihood of developing oral health issues like cavities or gum disease in the long term by making it easier for them to clean their teeth effectively.

Early orthodontic treatments aren’t necessary for every child, but when they are, these treatments give your child better long-term results. That’s why identifying these issues early is so incredibly important. It gives you and your child’s dentist the knowledge you need to either treat issues now or plan for orthodontic treatments your child may need in the future. As a result, getting an early orthodontic evaluation is beneficial even if your child doesn’t need orthodontic treatment now.

What happens if we put an orthodontic evaluation off until their teens?

Putting your child’s orthodontic evaluation off until they reach their teens gives orthodontic issues that could have been prevented or made far less severe the chance to develop more fully. When this happens, they require longer, more invasive treatments to resolve. This is perhaps best seen in overcrowding, which can be completely resolved or significantly improved using palatal expanders at a young age. 

If your child doesn’t get an evaluation until their teens, though, it may be too late to use a palatal expander because the plates of bone at the roof of their mouth may have already fused. Instead, your child’s dentist may need to extract otherwise healthy teeth to create more room in your child’s mouth. Looking at situations like this showcases the fact that when you wait until your child is a teenager before scheduling an orthodontic evaluation, you could unknowingly cause them to miss out on a treatment that is less invasive, more comfortable, and better for their lifelong oral health.

Early orthodontic evaluations look at your child’s teeth and overall bite to ensure that the timing of any treatments they need is exactly right, giving them the best lifelong results possible. Not every child needs early orthodontic treatments, but every child benefits from early orthodontic evaluations. If you’d like to learn more about these evaluations or treatments from a family dentist in Maryville, MO, feel free to schedule a consultation with Compass Dental Group  at any time.