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What to Expect at Your Child’s First Visit to the Orthodontist

What to Expect at Your Child’s First Visit to the Orthodontist

While you may think that visits to the orthodontist are just for preteens and teenagers, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should be seen by an orthodontist at around 7- years-old. Read on to find out why 7 is the perfect age for an orthodontic consultation and what to expect during that first visit.

A Typical Orthodontic Exam

Most often, your child’s pediatric dentist will recommend that you visit an orthodontist for an exam and consultation when your child has a mix of baby and permanent teeth, usually around age 7.  By that age, the orthodontist will be able to recognize any potential orthodontic problems, called malocclusions, at their earliest stages. In addition, if your child is younger than 7, but you notice that something doesn’t seem right with the way their teeth are coming in, it isn’t too early to schedule an orthodontic check-up. And if your child is over 7, it is never too late to get them in for an appointment. It is important to note that nearly all orthodontic consultations are free of charge, with no obligation.

At the exam, the orthodontist will take a look in your kiddo’s mouth using a small, hand-held mirror, looking at both the upper and lower teeth. Your child will be asked to bite down so the orthodontist can see how their top and bottom teeth come together, as well as the positions of the upper and lower jaw.

The orthodontist may also take a panoramic x-ray of your child’s mouth. This x-ray will help the orthodontist accurately identify any potential problems and come up with the most comprehensive and appropriate treatment plan. Depending on what the orthodontist sees when they do the exam, they may do the x-ray at the first consultation, or they may decide to wait until a subsequent visit. In addition, the orthodontist may take a photograph of your child’s smile. This can help document what their teeth and bite looked like at the first consultation.

Going Over Treatment Plans and Options

Once the exam is complete, the orthodontist will answer any questions you may have and will let you and your child know if any treatment is needed, what type of treatment is recommended, when treatment should begin and the estimated duration and cost of the treatment. If there is no immediate issue found, or if the orthodontist feels like more permanent teeth need to come in before a treatment plan can be developed, they may suggest that your child come in every 6 months or so for a reevaluation.  These visits will ensure that the development and growth of your child’s jaw is regularly monitored and that their permanent teeth are coming properly.

The orthodontist will most likely be in contact with your pediatric dentist to communicate the results of the initial consultation and if there are any immediate steps that need to be taken.

Common Orthodontic Problems Found at the First Visit

If the orthodontist does find any issues during the first visit, they may recommend beginning treatment as soon as possible. In many cases, early treatment can guide jaw development, address improper tooth alignment and prevent tooth extraction.  Early treatment can actually reduce the length of time your child will be in braces and help prevent the need for more complicated orthodontic procedures in the future.  Here are four common issues that orthodontists often find on the first visit:

1. Overbite or Underbite. An overbite is when the upper teeth protrude more than they should over the lower teeth.  An underbite is when the lower teeth protrude over the upper teeth.  The severity of overbites and underbites varies greatly, but in most cases, corrective work should begin while your kiddo’s teeth and jaw are still developing.

2.  Gaps Between Teeth. Gaps between your child’s teeth can mean that the permanent teeth are growing in crooked or aren’t in exactly the right spot. When dealt with early on, this issue can be relatively simple to fix with braces and/or other orthodontic treatments.

3. Overcrowding. The overcrowding of permanent teeth can lead to hard to clean areas that are prone to developing cavities. Overcrowding can also inhibit the proper growth of neighboring teeth and can make it difficult to bite and chew. Early orthodontic treatment can prevent tooth extraction later on and can help ensure that your kiddo’s teeth are easy to clean and remain cavity free.

4. Biting and Chewing Issues. If your kiddo is having trouble biting and chewing, early orthodontic intervention is especially important, as it may be a problem with their jaw. The sooner this can be addressed, the better, as it is easier to realign a still developing jaw than one that is fully grown.

Regardless of what the orthodontist sees when they look at your kiddo’s smile, rest assured that by bringing them in for that first orthodontic visit, you have taken a great step toward keeping that smile healthy (and straight!)