Here at Dietrich & Kelso Orthodontics, our team has created beautiful smiles for patients of all ages for more than 40 years. We treat teens and many adult patients, but we also treat younger children! We often hear from parents who want to know when they should bring their children in for their first visit with us. The American Association of Orthodontists and our doctors recommend that all children have an orthodontic evaluation by the age of seven or when permanent teeth begin to erupt, and we can identify and address potential issues. Since kids this age tend to have several baby teeth left, this can surprise some parents. But that’s exactly why these early visits to our offices in Central Florida are so important!
Early childhood evaluations are a valuable tool because they allow us to identify potential issues that could cause more severe problems in the future. Our team of experienced orthodontists uses dental landmarks to identify how a child’s bite is likely to develop as they age. We’ll create a customized plan for the right treatment at the best time, giving a child the best chance for a lifetime of healthy smiles! Keep reading to learn more about what you can expect from your child’s first orthodontic evaluation.
What happens during an early orthodontic evaluation?
If you’re bringing your child in for their first orthodontic visit, it helps to know what to expect! Our primary focus during this evaluation is assessing their oral health and development. Your Dietrich & Kelso orthodontist will keep an eye out for any problems that could require treatment, whether now or in the future.
Diagnosing oral issues at a young age allows us to correct them before they become more serious. There are several common problems we’ll be looking for, including:
Crooked teeth can impact the cosmetic appearance of a child’s smile and are more challenging to clean than straight teeth. They’re more susceptible to uneven wear and tear as well. If these issues are left untreated over time, they can eventually affect the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue.
Even though children lose their baby teeth, they’re still the placeholders for our permanent teeth, so they matter more than you might think. Baby teeth tend to fall out in a pretty specific order. If we notice any significant deviation from this pattern, it may signal a developmental issue that requires further attention.
These problems can occur when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or if a child has teeth that are too small or too far apart.
Most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors around seven. Any more or less than this could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth.
Front teeth that noticeably protrude are often seen as a cosmetic concern, but they can also increase the risk of potential injury to the permanent teeth and affect a child’s speech.
Underbites can be caused by problems with either the teeth or jaws. This usually involves the lower jaw growing too far forward or the upper jaw growing deficiently.
A posterior crossbite can cause crowding and may cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other so the top and bottom teeth can fit together. A narrow upper jaw can also be associated with a narrow nasal passage.
Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites
These bite problems occur vertically. In bites that are too deep, the top teeth completely cover the bottom ones when biting, indicating a small lower jaw. With an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough.
What happens after a child’s first orthodontic evaluation?
An orthodontic evaluation with Dietrich & Kelso Orthodontics doesn’t always lead to a recommendation for immediate treatment. We only recommend treatment for a small percentage of cases involving young children. We love early visits because they allow us to approach a child’s orthodontic care proactively instead of reacting when things go south.
We sometimes refer to this approach as interceptive orthodontics or Phase I treatment. We recommend interceptive orthodontics to achieve the kind of results we may not be able to obtain once a child’s face and jaw have stopped growing. Phase I treatment encourage proper jaw development, which helps :
- to better accommodate the permanent teeth when they come in
- to improve how the upper and lower jaws fit together
- to reduce the risk of damage due to untreated issues
During Phase I treatment, we will often use fixed or removable orthodontic appliances, with one or both jaws, for some time. Doing this earlier in a child’s life helps to correct poor jaw growth, creates space for developing teeth, and allows the facial muscles to develop more normally.
After this initial phase of treatment is complete, we will remove the appliance and begin a period of observation. Our doctors will monitor your child’s mouth every 4-6 months to monitor how things develop. The child may also be given a retainer to keep their teeth stable.
Most Phase I patients will eventually need Phase II treatment to continue the stabilizing process. We will use braces or aligners to accomplish this and move the teeth into their final positions. This completes the bite correction process, leaving the patient with a beautifully aligned smile that is also fully functional.
Give your child’s smile the best start with Dietrich & Kelso Orthodontics
Scheduling an early orthodontic evaluation with Dietrich & Kelso Orthodontics for your child is one of the best things you can do for their smile! If treatment isn’t necessary, we’ll invite you to continue visiting the most convenient office location for you every 6-12 months so our team can monitor their smile as they grow. This allows us to catch and treat any emerging issues early on. These recall visits are always free of charge.
If your young child is ready for their first orthodontic visit, we’d love to meet you and see how their smile develops. Get in touch today to schedule their FREE evaluation at one of our convenient locations.