While orthodontic interventions may seem like something for the teenage years, the ideal time to talk to an orthodontist is actually much earlier.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first visit with an orthodontist by age 6 or 7.
Why Should Children See Orthodontists by Age 7?
While 7 might seem early to see the orthodontist, it’s really not. It’s important to get children in early to be evaluated because by age 7, jaw and facial growth haven’t stopped. This means that if interventions are necessary, they can be more effective than if applied later on in life.
Orthodontists are trained to spot issues with the bite, jaw and emerging teeth. They also know how to treat these problems effectively and safely.
What Are Some Common Issues With Teeth and Jaw Growth?
Many factors affect when a child needs orthodontic treatment. These include:
- Size of the jaw
- Placement of permanent teeth
- Number of missing teeth
- How far back the teeth erupt
- How well the teeth fit together
Even if your child’s teeth fit together and appear straight, there may be problems only visible to the trained eye.
And while their bite may be fine, there could be underlying problems with how their jaw is growing and developing, which can contribute to:
- Open bites
- Problems with jaw alignment
- Jaw joint pain later in life
- Airway issues
- Poor oral habits such as thumb sucking
Other Signs Your Child May Need Orthodontic Intervention
If you notice any of the following signs, it might mean your child needs some help from an orthodontist:
- Difficulty chewing food
- Teeth grinding
- Sleeping with mouth open
- Crowded teeth
- Bad breath
- Chipped or broken teeth
- Missing teeth
- Dental abscesses
- Tooth decay
- Fractured teeth
- Trouble breathing through the nose
- Jaw pain
- Joint pain
Why Do Kids Need Braces?
Won’t kids just outgrow their bite or jaw problems? Do they need braces that young?
The answer is no – they won’t outgrow their bite or jaw problems. In fact, many kids who don’t have their orthodontic health issues treated as kids experience jaw and bite issues later in life, including painful temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Braces aren’t just for kids who have crooked teeth. Braces are used to correct many issues with the jaws and teeth. The most common issue is crowding of the teeth, where one tooth pushes against another. When this happens, the tooth can become misaligned. If left untreated, this can lead to other issues such as gum disease, tooth decay, posture problems, sleep breathing disorders and even headaches.
Early orthodontic intervention allows orthodontists to:
- Correct overcrowded teeth
- Improve appearance
- Help prevent future dental health issues
Is There a Difference Between Early Treatment and Late Treatment?
Yes! While both early and late treatments are beneficial, early treatment has advantages over late treatment. For example, early treatment can help a patient avoid long-term problems like:
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Jaw joint pain
- Dental caries
- Sleep apnea
The Concern About Sleep Apnea and Children
Is sleep apnea a big deal in kids? Absolutely. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about one in 10 kids between ages 6 months and 5 years old has sleep apnea. That’s why it’s so important to catch this problem before it becomes severe.
If you are considering whether to seek treatment for your child’s sleep apnea, think about this. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway closes during sleep. This causes snoring and pauses in breathing. It also leads to high blood pressure, heartburn, daytime drowsiness and poor school performance. As a result, children often fall asleep at inappropriate times, miss school and struggle with behavior.
Both types of sleep apnea can cause serious medical complications. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Kidney damage
What Are Some Common Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
There are several different causes of obstructive sleep apnea. The most common ones include a large tongue, a small jaw and a narrow airway.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated in Children?
If you think your child may be suffering from sleep apnea, talk to us. We can determine if your child needs oral appliances to treat their condition. Oral appliances are custom-made devices worn by patients while sleeping. They work by keeping the lower jaw forward, which prevents the airway from collapsing.
Don’t Kids Grow Out of Sleep Apnea?
Just like orthodontic issues, kids do not usually outgrow obstructive sleep apnea. However, we can help them manage the condition with treatment.
Learn more about how we can help your child achieve a beautiful and healthy smile. Call us now to schedule an appointment for a consultation.