As a busy parent, you’ve got a lot on your mind. From parent/teacher conferences to making sure they eat their vegetables, by the time your child is seven, your plate is full! One thing you definitely shouldn’t cross off your to-do list, however, is making sure your child sees an orthodontist, like Mahlmann & Borders Orthodontics, by age 7.
According to the American Board of Orthodontics, this is the perfect age to begin early intervention. If you want to learn more about why your child should see an orthodontist by age seven, keep reading!
Reasons Your Child Needs to Visit an Orthodontist
When Dr. Mahlmann and Dr. Borders assess your child’s orthodontic condition at their first appointment, there are a number of different reasons they might recommend early treatment. Your child might benefit from an early start if we recognize the following conditions at their initial appointment.
Tooth Eruption/Tooth Loss: It’s easy to underestimate the importance of baby teeth, but as the placeholders for our permanent teeth, they matter more than you might think. Since they tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, any significant deviation from this pattern could signify there are developmental issues that may need attention.
By age 7, children should also have at least four permanent molars and two to four permanent incisors. If there are more or less than these present, it could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. Sometimes removing a primary tooth early or maintaining a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely can prevent bigger problems later.
Spacing or Crowding: By the time a child is ready for their first orthodontic evaluation, it will be possible to tell if they currently have or may develop excessive crowding or spacing issues. Spacing issues can arise over a tooth lost prematurely, one that never developed, teeth that are too small, or those spaced far apart. Crowding could require expanding the arches or removing teeth to improve the situation.
Crooked Teeth: Correcting crooked teeth at an earlier age can improve a child’s oral health and help them avoid the above issues. While we can align teeth at almost any age, doing so at a younger age can make for an easier and more effective treatment process. Crooked teeth are more susceptible to wear and tear, and over time, the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue can be compromised.
Underbite: When a child has an underbite, we need to determine whether the malocclusion is caused by problems with the eruption of the teeth or by the relationship of the jaws. As with an overbite, we’ll sometimes need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin comprehensive treatment.
However, earlier measures can be taken to help avoid damage to the front teeth and encourage skeletal correction. Underbite patients who receive treatment between the ages of about seven to ten tend to be less likely to need corrective jaw surgery when they are older.
Overbite/Protruding Teeth: Teeth that protrude are generally evident in early childhood. These are often seen as a cosmetic concern, but the effects of an overbite pattern go beyond the appearance of the teeth. Children may experience pain in the jaw and excessive tooth wear, and they can even have trouble with normal speech patterns.
We’ll usually need to wait until a child’s mouth has matured before attempting to correct an overbite. However, several treatment options still exist for reducing the risk of pain and traumatic injury as they grow. These corrective measures can also improve a child’s confidence in their smile!
Your Child’s First Appointment
When you bring your child in for their first orthodontic appointment, our Mahlmann & Borders Orthodontics team will spend time getting them used to the orthodontic office so they’ll feel comfortable in our Richmond office. Then we’ll assess their unique condition and needs. Early intervention helps Dr. Mahlmann and Dr. Borders:
- Guide your child’s jaw growth
- Correct bad habits like thumb-sucking
- Lower the risk of trauma
- Improve your child’s overall healt
How We Help: Two-Phase Treatment
Not all patients require early intervention, but for those who do, the early treatment allows Dr. Mahlmann and Dr. Borders to give your child a head start in caring for complex issues that could get worse with age. Two-phase treatment breaks orthodontics into a longer and more comprehensive process than older patients receive. This slow and steady approach treats developing issues and gives your child a long-term smile they’ll be proud of.
Phase I Treatment: Phase I treatment works best when your child’s baby teeth are still present. During this first round, our goal is to guide their baby teeth in line so that their permanent teeth follow their lead when they grow in.
If your child requires phase I treatment, our Mahlmann & Borders Orthodontics team will design a unique treatment plan tailor-made to meet their needs. Treatment options may include expanders for overbites, a Herbst appliance for underbites, or even an early round of metal braces.
For most patients, phase I treatment lasts between six and twelve months. However, this timeline varies from patient to patient, depending on their unique needs.
Retention: After phase one treatment is complete, your child will enter a rest phase called retention. They’ll wear a retainer to keep their teeth in position. This resting period gives your child’s permanent teeth the chance to grow, following the path of their baby teeth. They’ll also meet with Dr. Mahlmann or Dr. Borders every six to twelve months so that our team can monitor their progress to determine whether phase II treatment will be necessary.
Phase II Treatment: Now that both Phase I and the retention phase are complete, you should already see progress in your child’s smile. Phase II treatment looks much more like the traditional treatment you see during the teenage years. Dr. Mahlmann or Dr. Borders typically apply metal braces to the top and bottom teeth. This process helps fine-tune your child’s smile, giving them results that will last a lifetime.
Give Your Child the Best Smile Possible
At Mahlmann & Borders Orthodontics, our team pledge is to provide quality, personalized care for you and your child. From the moment you step into our office, we work hard to make you and your kids feel welcome and comfortable. If you have a seven-year-old, don’t wait to schedule their appointment today!