Even if you have been diligent about bringing your child to the dentist since their very first baby tooth poked through (or even sooner), you may be curious about when to see an orthodontist.
Early dental care is tied to long-term dental and overall health, but so is orthodontic care. Of course, many parents are unaware of these benefits since they often assume that orthodontic care is unnecessary as long as their child still has their baby teeth. This, however, may not be the case for your child.
So, if you are wondering when you should seek out an orthodontist, the answer may be sooner rather than later.
What Age is a First Orthodontic Visit Recommended?
Both the American Association of Orthodontics and the American Dental Association recommend seeing an orthodontist around age 7. Early visits may help with future treatments and can even prevent issues from occurring.
Why so Early?
Most children still have baby teeth at this age, and it is true that baby teeth will fall out and be replaced with your child’s adult teeth. But baby teeth are very important as they pave the way for permanent teeth.
Many times, braces or aligners will not be necessary until permanent teeth have emerged. However, in some cases, early orthodontic treatment may be recommended. These treatments can prevent further misalignment or other problems or can pave the way to faster, less complex treatment later. Even if treatment isn’t needed right away, thinking about a treatment plan early on may shorten the treatment timeline later on.
At this stage (around age 7), it is useful for an orthodontist to see the alignment of the teeth and the way in which adult teeth are growing in, as well as any potential problems with the jaw or bite. While dentists are experts in many aspects of oral care, they may not always be as adept as an experienced and trained orthodontist in identifying early issues.
What Will Happen at a First Orthodontist Appointment?
A first appointment may look a lot like a dentist’s appointment but without the cleaning and fluoride treatments. Your orthodontist will examine your child’s teeth and likely take x-rays.
At a minimum, this will set a baseline for future exams. Your orthodontist will discuss any concerns and, when appropriate, early treatment options and recommendations. This appointment is a good time to ask any questions you have.
What if I Have Concerns Sooner?
It is never too early for your child to visit an orthodontist. You may notice tooth alignment problems with baby teeth or as soon as an adult tooth begins to emerge. You may also notice bite, speech, or overcrowding issues, be concerned because you or your child’s other parent had orthodontic issues, or simply want peace of mind. These are all valid reasons to see an orthodontist early.
Will I Need a Referral From a Dentist?
Many patients also assume they will need a referral from their dentist or pediatric dentist for an orthodontic consultation. This is generally not the case. Of course, it is always a good idea to contact your insurance provider to see what their requirements are. You can always ask your dentist if they notice any potential concerns, but, as we mentioned, it is possible for a dentist to miss minor or early signs of orthodontic problems.
Scheduling Your First Appointment
If your child is around the age of seven, or if he or she is any age and you have concerns about their orthodontic health, reach out to our office to schedule a consultation. It is always a good idea to be proactive about your child’s orthodontic and dental health!