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Tuesday
Aug062013

Why visit an orthodontist by age 7?

Don’t kids need all their permanent teeth for braces?

Yes, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children be screened by an orthodontist by age 7.  And yes, comprehensive orthodontic treatment should align all the permanent teeth through the 12-year molars.  But you should know that actual braces are rarely recommended for a child at age 7.

By age 7, your child should have lost several baby teeth and grown in their permanent replacements as well as the permanent 6-year molars.  A panoramic x-ray taken at this time will identify any missing permanent teeth or problems with wayward teeth that are not erupting properly.  

An orthodontist will be able to identify issues with crowding, crossbites, or jaw size imbalances, which are often best addressed during the transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth before jaw growth is complete.  Since lip, cheek, and tongue forces help guide the teeth as they erupt, an orthodontist will also help manage any oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking, lip trapping, tongue thrusting, or mouth breathing.

Most treatments I recommend at this age are passive guidance of tooth eruption and arch development aimed at intercepting bigger problems, minimizing the need for permanent teeth to be pulled and reducing the time spent in full braces.

Can all of this be handled after all the permanent teeth are in and jaw growth is complete?  Perhaps.  But know that your child’s treatment may involve more time, money, and effort if he or she doesn’t see an orthodontist until after the dental development is complete. 

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