Orthodontic problems rarely fix themselves. That’s why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children be screened by an AAO orthodontist at age 7.
By age 7, your child has enough permanent teeth that an orthodontist can spot a problem before it becomes … well, a bigger problem.
Some issues may be obvious – misaligned teeth, an “overbite,” and an underbite or a crossbite – but others can remain undetectable by the untrained eye. Either way, let an orthodontist take a look. In addition to an intraoral exam, orthodontists use panoramic x-rays to check below the surface to look for extra teeth, missing teeth, impacted teeth or teeth coming into the wrong positions.
Early treatment, which occurs while some baby teeth are still present, can guide the growth of facial and jaw bones into a better growth pattern and provide more space for incoming permanent teeth.
Problems that may lend themselves well to early treatment include:
- Underbites – when the lower front teeth are ahead of the upper front teeth
- Crossbites – when the upper teeth are inside of the lowers
- Functional shift – when the jaw shifts to one side as the teeth come together
- Very crowded teeth
- Excessively spaced teeth
- Extra or missing teeth
- Teeth that meet abnormally or don’t meet at all
- Thumb-, finger- or pacifier- sucking that is affecting the teeth or jaw growth
You don’t need to wait for a dentist referral for your child to see an AAO orthodontist. General dentists and orthodontists focus on different aspects of dental health. Orthodontists are specialists in facial development and the bite.