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When Should My Child First See the Orthodontist?

When most people think of the orthodontist, they think of teenagers coming in to get their braces put on for the first time, but orthodontic intervention can start as early as elementary school for some individuals. It is recommended that you bring your child for a consultation by age 7 in order to be proactive when facing orthodontic issues. This kind of early action is called phase 1 treatment, and it can help to prepare your child for braces later on in life. You can learn more about phase 1 treatment here, or call Farina Orthodontic Specialists today to set up an appointment!

What Does The First Visit Entail?

During this first visit to the orthodontist, your doctor will first take a look at the teeth with a visual examination. They will then take a digital scan to determine the underlying jaw position using the iCat scanner. Using iCat is a great, non-invasive way to render 2D and 3D images of your child’s mouth composition. The iCat scanner takes only eight seconds to collect enough data for your doctor to give an informed diagnosis and treatment plan. You will be able to look at these panoramic and cephalometric X-rays along with your doctor on a computer screen, so you stay fully informed on what kind of treatment is needed for your child. You will then have time to speak with a treatment coordinator about how to move forward with treatment if it is needed. 

Are My Child’s Orthodontic Needs Necessary or Purely Cosmetic?

Usually, when people think of orthodontics they think of perfectly straight teeth and a glowing smile. While orthodontic intervention does leave you with a beautiful smile, most of our objectives are to prevent health issues associated with chewing and breathing. After the first visit to the orthodontist, you will see that there is usually a functional need for early treatment. Being proactive with your child’s orthodontic care can prevent health problems such as TMJ, bone erosion, jaw pain, and more. Having the forethought to address these issues early on can save tons of time and money in the long run.

How Can I Tell If My Child Needs Braces?

There are a few telltale signs that your child will need braces or other orthodontic devices. The most common issue is bite misalignment, or how the top and bottom jaw fit together. This includes overbites, underbites, and crossbites. Other reasons are if your child has difficulty chewing or breathing. This may be a sign that their teeth are overcrowded, or that their palate is too small to accommodate all the new teeth that are erupting. The best way to determine if your child needs orthodontic care is simply to come into the office and speak with a doctor. You will gain much more insight into phase 1 treatment and have the opportunity to get all your questions answered.

What Kind of Orthodontic Care Might Be Recommended for My Child?

Most phase 1 treatment is designed to prepare your child’s mouth for success later on in life. It is better to start treatment early while your child still has a mixture of baby teeth and adult teeth because their bones are still developing, making it easier to move the teeth and jaw. If your child’s teeth are overcrowded, your orthodontist will recommend an expander to make room for new teeth to come in safely. The expander will gently push the two halves of the palate apart, and new bone will grow to fill in the gap. An expander also helps to open the airway because as the palate is expanded, it allows the nasal passage to open up and facilitate breathing through the nose. Expanders are sometimes accompanied by limited braces on selected teeth.

Some children will need what we call habit appliances. These appliances are designed to eliminate bad habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting which over time can push teeth in the wrong direction and lead to health issues. For children that already have most of their permanent teeth erupted, a full set of braces may be recommended as well. 

We are happy to offer both Invisalign and ClearTech Aligners at our practice as well. These clear, plastic aligners can work to address many of the same issues that braces treat without some of the lifestyle changes. Invisalign and ClearTech are great for kids because they are more comfortable than braces, and they allow your child to continue to eat whatever they want, whenever they want.

What If My Child Does Not Need Early Orthodontic Treatment?

If you come in for a preliminary consultation and your child does not need any treatment, we will continue to monitor their growth patterns every six months until they are ready for treatment. There is no penalty for being “too early” for orthodontic treatment, so do not stress too much about the treatment timeline. We will guide you through this process to make sure orthodontic intervention is taken at the right time. 

Does My Dentist Need to Refer Me to an Orthodontist?

You do not need a referral from your dentist to visit the orthodontist. An orthodontist can see both children and adults without any materials from a dentist’s office. And at Farina Orthodontic Specialists, your initial orthodontic consultation is free!