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When you think of orthodontics, you might picture teenagers sporting braces. But as your orthodontist for kids in San Diego, Dr. Durschlag says adolescence can sometimes be too late to start addressing issues with oral development.

So when should my child see an orthodontist? At what age is it best to see an orthodontist? You might be surprised that the ideal time is actually much earlier than adolescence. The American Association of Orthodontists and the team at San Diego Smile Pros recommend that children have their first orthodontic check-up no later than age seven. But why so early? Let’s delve into the reasons.

Early Assessment for Early Detection of Orthodontic Issues

Early evaluation, ideally by age seven, allows an orthodontist, like Dr. Durschlag, to detect subtle problems with jaw growth and examine how adult teeth are coming in. At this age, some of the permanent teeth have erupted and jaw shape is established, providing a good opportunity for an orthodontist to identify potential issues with crooked, crowded teeth or a bad bite.

Many times, Dr. Durschlag won’t find any orthodontic issues that need immediate attention with early intervention (also called Phase 1 orthodontic treatment). Instead, an early appointment will simply kick off a period of complementary growth and development checks over the next few years as your child grows.

At San Diego Smile Pros, we make this time fun and stress-free for our young patients and their parents — our Smile Pros Kids’ Club is designed to make oral development check-ups events to look forward to. Kids get an ID card and lanyard, with pins they can earn for smile milestones and achievements.

Common Orthodontic Issues in Young Children

So what are the most common orthodontic issues that Dr. Durschlag sees in young kids? The most common include:

Crowding: This is a common problem and typically happens because the jaw is too narrow for all the teeth to erupt with the ideal space around them.

Open bites, crossbites, underbites, deep overbites: These malocclusions can affect a child’s ability to chew or speak properly, and can even contribute to airway issues.

Blocked teeth: Also called impacted teeth, blocked teeth are when baby teeth sit in such a way that prevent adult teeth from erupting properly. The adult teeth could eventually grow in crooked, affecting neighboring teeth or causing chewing pain.

Flared teeth: Top front teeth that stick out on an angle are at greater risk of injury and also affect biting and chewing ability.

Prolonged thumb-sucking habits: When normal infant habits like thumb- or finger-sucking, pacifier use, or tongue thrust continue past the preschool years, misalignment of teeth and jaws can occur — like the flared teeth or overbites we mentioned earlier.

Benefits of Phase 1 Orthodontic Treatment

“Lots of dentists tell people to wait until all of their kids’ baby teeth fall out before getting any orthodontic work which is often too late,” says Dr. Durschlag. The problem with waiting on a visit to the orthodontist is that untreated, severe cases of crowding and problematic bites in childhood can make braces or Invisalign® in the teen years take longer, feel more uncomfortable, or even result in your teen needing invasive surgery or tooth extractions.

On the other hand, early detection and Phase 1 orthodontic treatment for kids ages 6-10 allows a kids orthodontist like Dr. Durschlag the opportunity to guide oral development while the jaw is growing and help avoid or alleviate problems later. It’s a proactive approach and goes a long way in making teenage orthodontics, also called Phase 2 treatment, a simpler, shorter, less invasive experience that focuses on fine-tuning the teeth and jaws to create a strong and stable smile.

Phase 1 Appliances and How They Help

Depending on what your child needs, Phase 1 appliances help create room for permanent teeth, align and expand jaws, or stop infant habits from further damaging bites:

  • Limited braces are braces placed on only certain teeth that need alignment.
  • Space maintainers are placed in gaps to hold open a space so there’s enough room for the adult tooth to grow in properly.
  • A palatal expander gradually widens the upper jaw in your child’s mouth to make space for teeth to grow in straight and without crowding.
  • Habit-breaking appliance: Your San Diego kids’ orthodontist can provide a habit-breaking appliance that prevents fingers, thumbs, or the tongue from pushing against the backside of teeth.

An Early First Orthodontist Appointment: Set Up Your Child For Smile Success

An orthodontic check-up by age seven is vital for early detection and treatment of oral development issues. And if this initial visit results in a recommendation of Phase 1 orthodontic treatment? It will lead to an easier braces or Invisalign experience later on!

If your child is around age seven, come in for a visit and start your child on the road to straight, healthy teeth! At San Diego Smile Pros, your first appointment is complimentary, as are the regular check-ups as your child grows. You’ll find peace-of-mind with personalized, high-quality, high-tech orthodontic care. We also make coordinated dental care easy with our board-certified pediatric dentist, Dr. Hayes.

Schedule your early orthodontic visit today with your board-certified orthodontist for kids in San Diego.