What age should children visit the orthodontist?
This is a common question for many parents. The AAO (American Association of Orthodontics) recommends that all children be seen by an orthodontist at the age of 7. At this age the first permanent molars have erupted and many dental and skeletal problems become apparent. At this young age the orthodontist has the opportunity to correct these problems at an ideal time during your child’s development. So, the big question every parent has now is what, when, why and how long.
What are problems that can be best treated during early development?
In general, orthodontic malocclusions are made up of both skeletal and dental problems. Between the ages of seven and nine, when children have both permanent and baby teeth present, the growth pattern has already been established. It is helpful at that point for the orthodontist to be able to modify growth of the upper jaw to create a better environment for the eventual eruption of the permanent teeth. At this stage of early development, all three planes of space can be addressed including the transverse (width), vertical (bite depth), and sagittal (horizontal front to back). Some examples of problems that occur at an early age include:
- Cross bite
- open bite
- deep bite
- Skeletal Discrepancy
By addressing early skeletal and dental problems, the orthodontist can begin to create the amount of space needed for the eruption of the permanent teeth. Early treatment can reduce a potentially severe malocclusion to one that would be a more routine orthodontic treatment. It can also sometimes prevent the need for extraction of permanent teeth later in treatment. Early treatment, or “Phase I”, lasts approximately twelve to fourteen months. After this initial phase of treatment, the patient will generally go to a maintenance level of observation while the permanent dentition erupts.