There can be a bit of confusion over the idea of when to take your child to see the orthodontist for the first time. Many people think that it is necessary to wait until your child is a teenager for their first orthodontic visit. What most people do not know is that there is a huge benefit to going earlier than the teenage years. A dentist’s recommendation is not even necessary to go to the orthodontist for the first time! We at Coppe and Sears are here to help you figure out when your child should have their first visit to the orthodontist! If you are currently a patient in our pediatric dental practice, we examine the orthodontic situation at every cleaning visit and will alert you if there are any problems. If you have another dentist, we welcome you to the orthodontic part of our practice and will advise on whether any early treatment should be considered.

The American Dental Association and American Association of Orthodontists state that children should first see an orthodontist when they are around seven years old. That might scare some parents into thinking, “They want to put braces on my child that early?” and the answer is, not exactly. Keep reading to learn why seven is the magic number!

Why 7 years old?

girl with watermelon

We know that it might seem early, but there are a few good reasons to visit us at that age. The main reason is that around seven years old, most kids have lost a few baby teeth but still haven’t grown in many adult teeth. At this time they are also growing in their first set of adult molars behind the last baby teeth, which are appropriately named “six-year molars.” Since there are both baby teeth and adult teeth present, it gives the orthodontist a good indication of how the baby teeth are paving the way for the adult teeth to grow in properly. The bite situation at this age can help the orthodontist figure out how the bite will fit together and if there will be any potential problems during jaw and bite development. We will also take a 3-D scan (commonly referred to as a “growth and development scan”) to see if any adult teeth are missing (surprisingly, 5% of the population is missing an adult tooth), and for any deviations from normal tooth eruption. If we see any potential problems or complications, we can figure out a treatment plan earlier rather than later in the teen years to correct these issues.

What will happen during our first visit? Will my child need treatment?

Some children will not need any treatment at all, but if they do, treatment with retainers or braces may not be recommended right away. Some patients need to wait until more permanent teeth grow into the mouth before they are ready for treatment. If early treatment is needed, we will do two smaller phases of treatment instead of one longer treatment in the teenThere are two steps to orthodontic treatment; “phase 1” or “early stage,” and then “phase 2”. Phase 1 is usually given between the ages of seven and ten. The reason that orthodontists recommend that children have a visit at the age of seven is that phase 1 treatment is very beneficial for children that will be undergoing treatment to have. Phase 1 usually consists of a relatively mild form of treatment, such as braces on the front of the teeth, a retainer, a palatal expander, spacers, or a combination of any of these. Going through phase 1 is meant to help minimize problems for phase 2. Sometimes, there might not even be a reason for phase 2 treatment afterward. The purpose of phase 1 is to fix the problem within a year and then monitor progress periodically after that to determine whether or not braces might be needed later in the teen years.

teen boy with braces

Now, it might happen that your child doesn’t need treatment at all, or maybe just not right away. If that’s the case, then there is usually a re-evaluation in about six to twelve months from the initial consultation. At those appointments, the progress of the child will be monitored and, from there, determined on whether or not they will need braces between the ages of 11 to 14.

And you’re sure I don’t need a referral from my dentist to see an orthodontist?

Correct. Contrary to popular belief, you can visit an orthodontist at any point. If you are not a patient in our pediatric dental practice, we will notify your dentist of our findings and let them know any planned orthodontic treatments or evaluations.

At our practice, we are aware of how important it is to catch certain orthodontic problems earlier rather than later. Luckily, we specialize in both pediatric dentistry and orthodontics, so if you feel like you might need a referral from your pediatric dentist to visit an orthodontist, you’ve come to the right place, because they’re in the same building! We want to get your child’s smile to be the best it can be, and at the earliest, it can be. Click here to schedule an appointment or give us a call at 781.861.6120!