If you are thinking back to your childhood, you probably remember that the conventional wisdom on orthodontics and other corrective procedures for your teeth and mouth was to do it during your teenage years. It made for a few awkward dates, and often took years of braces, retainers, and other treatments to get your bite corrected and your teeth aligned. That conventional wisdom has changed over the years, and today parents are encouraged to bring their children to the orthodontist much earlier to begin treatment.

First Orthodontic Visit

Orthodontists, including the American Association of Orthodontics, recommend that children should have their first orthodontic visit to their office by the age of 7. It might seem young, especially since many children are still losing and growing in teeth at this age, but what we have learned is that the earlier an orthodontist can identify potential malocclusions (problems) with the teeth and jaw, the better they can prepare to correct them while children’s mouths are still developing and growing.

Preventive Interventions and Treatments

There are a range of treatment options for children and teenagers, and most of the time your child will not get braces as early as age 7. Instead, the orthodontist will recommend treatments that help guide appropriate growth and adjustment in the mouth. This might include:

• Space maintainers that guide teeth into position by keeping an appropriate space in the mouth after tooth loss and before new teeth grow in
• Guided eruption to prevent crowding, which reduces the chances for teeth to grow in crooked
• Extractions, but only when necessary to get a primary tooth out when the permanent teeth are ready to grow in behind it
• Alignment with less invasive options than metal braces
• Interventions for overbites, underbites, crossbites, and other jaw alignment problems

Eliminating Bad Habits

Another good reason to see an orthodontist sooner than later with your child is that they are able to identify potentially problematic behaviors and help correct or eliminate these behaviors, such as thumb sucking.

Taking your child to the orthodontist at age 7 doesn’t guarantee that he or she will need early intervention, but it does help identify and prepare a child’s mouth to grow and develop as successfully as possible. In many cases these early interventions can also reduce the length and severity of treatment required later, so they’re good for parents as well.