Even though most parents are familiar with the idea of regular dental visits for their child, it can still come as a surprise to learn that early orthodontic evaluations are equally important for maintaining a healthy smile. That’s one reason why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all kids have an initial evaluation with an orthodontist by around the age of 7! Since most young children still have developing mouths with a number of baby teeth left, you may wonder about the basis for this recommendation, but an evaluation doesn’t have to equal treatment. In fact, here at Bigman Orthodontics, immediate orthodontic treatment is indicated for just a small fraction of the young patients we see.
So why are these early orthodontic visits valuable? It’s because they allow us to diagnose any potential orthodontic issues, whether they’re already present or at risk of developing. By the age of 7, most children will already have their permanent front teeth in place, and their first set of adult molars, too. We consider these to be dental “landmarks,” and an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Bigman can use them to identify how a child’s bite is likely to develop as they grow.
Our San Ramon office also uses state-of-the-art technology like digital photographs and panoramic x-rays to help Dr. Bigman identify missing adult teeth or deviations from the normal pattern of tooth eruption, which could signify the need for treatment or further monitoring. If you have a child who’s ready for their first orthodontic visit, we’d love to meet you both! Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from an early orthodontic evaluation with Bigman Orthodontics.
What happens during an orthodontic evaluation?
Dr. Bigman will use this time to assess your child’s smile and check for any issues that may warrant treatment, whether now or in the future. Discovering problems now gives us the opportunity to correct them before they have time to develop into something more serious. He will be looking for evidence of several common orthodontic issues, including those listed here.
Because children lose their baby teeth, it’s easy to underestimate how important they actually are. But as the placeholders for our permanent teeth, these primary teeth matter more than you might think! They also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so any noticeable deviation from that pattern may signal a developmental issue that requires further attention.
In general, we expect most children to have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors by around the age of 7. Any more or less than this could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth.
Crooked teeth can be harder to brush and floss effectively, and they also tend to be more susceptible to uneven wear and tear. If left untreated over time, this can eventually affect both the shape and position of the surrounding gum tissue.
These issues can occur when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or if a child has teeth that are too small or spaced too far apart.
Front teeth that noticeably protrude are usually viewed as a cosmetic concern, but they can also increase the risk of potential injury to the permanent teeth and cause speech issues as well.
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 also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other to fit the top and bottom teeth together. A narrow upper jaw can be associated with a narrow nasal passage sometimes, too.
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, which can indicate a small lower jaw. With an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough.
What happens after a child’s first orthodontic evaluation?
One reason we encourage early orthodontic evaluations is that they allow us to be proactive with your child’s orthodontic care, instead of reactive. We can provide kids with any treatment they require at the most optimal time, something that is often referred to as Phase I treatment. We will often initiate this in order to achieve the kind of results that may be unattainable once a child’s face and jaws have finished growing. Phase I treatment encourages proper jaw development that will:
better accommodate all the permanent teeth
improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together
reduce the risk for damage due to crowding, misalignment, or malformed jaws
With Phase I treatment, Dr. Bigman will often use fixed or removable orthodontic appliances for a specified period of time to correct poor jaw growth, create space for developing teeth, and help the facial muscles develop normally. This can be done with one or both jaws. Once the initial phase is complete, the appliance will be removed and we’ll begin a period of observation. During this time, Dr. Bigman may recommend a retainer to keep the teeth stable. He’ll also continue to monitor the child’s mouth every 4-6 months to ensure things are proceeding as they should be.
Most Phase I patients will eventually need Phase II treatment to continue the stabilizing process and move the teeth into the final desired positions. Braces or aligners will normally be used to help finalize the bite correction and create a beautifully aligned smile that looks and feels amazing!
Give your child the gift of a healthy smile with Bigman Orthodontics
Bigman Orthodontics is proud to offer complimentary consultations, so it’s the perfect time to schedule an early orthodontic evaluation for your child. If Dr. Bigman finds that no immediate care is necessary, we’ll invite you to visit our office every 6-12 months so we can continue to monitor your child’s smile. This gives Dr. Bigman the chance to keep up with their dental development and catch any emerging problems. Our recall visits are always free of charge.
If you’re in San Ramon or the surrounding communities and have a child who’s ready for their first orthodontic appointment, get in touch today to schedule a FREE evaluation with Dr. Bigman. We’re here to help you take the first steps towards a happy, healthy smile for your child!