Parents ask us all of the time, “What is the best age for my child to see an orthodontist?” Well, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, kids should have their first visit no later than age seven, which is the recommendation we go by at Hawley Orthodontics. While your child will probably still have some of their adorable baby teeth, most likely, their permanent molars and incisors will be in so we can get a good idea of what we’re working with. We thought we’d take some of the mystery out of those early visits as well as go over the benefits of being evaluated by an orthodontist at a young age.
The Benefits of Early Orthodontic Evaluations
When a child is seven-years-old, their jaws are still developing. A certified specialist in orthodontics, like Dr. Hawley, is trained to spot even slight problems with jaw growth and the way the permanent teeth are coming in. Even if your child’s teeth look straight enough, there could still be irregularities with their bite. Most of the time, we’ll just monitor your child’s development and let you know when we think it’s time to start treatment. If your little one has any habits, like sucking their thumb, which could potentially cause unwanted tooth movements or interference with jaw formation or the growth of their palate, we can help you create a plan to stop it.
If you’re worried that your child will automatically end up with a full set of braces as soon as they set foot in our office, just know that only about 10 to 15% of children can benefit from interceptive treatment. This means the vast majority of our young patients will merely be in an observational period. By coming in for regular visits during this time, your child will get used to seeing an orthodontist and we can build a relationship with them (and you!) so when they do begin treatment, they’re comfortable and have a sense of trust.
If we happen to spot red flags, two-phase orthodontic treatment could be your best bet. This means starting the first round of treatment before all of the permanent teeth are in, followed by a few years off and then finishing up with a round of braces or Invisalign Teen to fine tune the bite and lock in the results. At Hawley Orthodontics, we always aim to finish early treatment in a year or less. Dr. Hawley doesn’t just have expertise in braces and Invisalign treatment, he also specializes in dentofacial orthopedics, which is when we use appliances to guide jaw growth. Some of the major benefits of early orthodontic treatment include:
- Making treatment as a teen or adult much less complicated, faster and cheaper
- Creating space for the permanent teeth to erupt properly
- Decreasing the likelihood your child will need corrective jaw surgery down the road
- Fixing crowding that’s blocking adult teeth from coming in
- Improving the appearance of the smile and boosting confidence and self-esteem
- Helping the lips meet correctly
- Reducing the risk of injury to front teeth that are sticking out
- Correcting facial asymmetries
- Stopping teeth from getting impacted, which is when they get trapped in the bone
- Remedying crossbites
What Happens at the First Orthodontist Appointment?
A child’s first orthodontic visit might differ a bit depending on the office you go to. At Hawley Orthodontics, we keep things upbeat and relaxed so your little one doesn’t feel intimidated. You’ll receive a warm welcome and you can grab a drink from our refreshment bar before you’re called back to the treatment area. This initial visit is a records appointment where we gather all of the information so we can get a clear picture of your child’s needs. Dr. Hawley will examine your child’s mouth and our awesome team will take digital photos of their teeth and face as well as a panoramic and cephalometric x-ray. Dr. Hawley will use this info to evaluate the teeth and jaws and, if necessary, determine a diagnosis and formulate a personalized treatment plan.
Once Dr. Hawley looks closely at everything, he’ll have a chat with you and your child. He’ll answer your questions and if they don’t need treatment yet, he’ll let you know when you should come back so he can track any changes and keep a close eye on their teeth and jaws. If he does recommend early intervention, he’ll illustrate how the treatment will work. If you decide to move forward, a team member will go over the cost and your insurance coverage and work with you to find a payment plan that suits your budget.
For those undergoing interceptive treatment, the second orthodontist appointment will likely involve being fitted for an appliance. If we’ll just be observing, Dr. Hawley will examine your little one and look for any changes to ensure their development is still on track. As always, if you have questions, ask away! We want our patients and their parents to feel educated and informed so they’re confident about their treatment choices.
When Should My Child Get Braces?
Like we mentioned before, just because your child visits the orthodontist, doesn’t mean they’ll need braces immediately. There’s no standard age when kids start their orthodontic treatment. Instead, Dr. Hawley makes his recommendations based on when it’s needed. However, by age 12 all, or at least most, of the permanent teeth will have erupted and we can clearly see how the teeth and jaws are aligned. If your child didn’t need early intervention and braces or Invisalign Teen are indicated, starting at age 12 or 13 will bring about the best results. Since they’re not fully grown yet, we have more wiggle room in manipulating the bite than we do with adults.
If you’re looking for a metro Omaha kids’ orthodontist, Hawley Orthodontics is where it’s at. We cater to patients of all ages with our bright, welcoming, kid-friendly office. As a father of four kiddos himself, Dr. Hawley is well-versed in making his youngest patients feel at ease, building a rapport with them and making them laugh so they actually enjoy hopping up in his chair. He also always keeps parents in the loop and will walk you through your child’s diagnosis using pictures and x-rays if we do decide early treatment could be beneficial. Schedule your free consultation today and let’s team up to help your child achieve a healthy, happy smile!