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Dr. David Ward | When Does My Child Need an Orthodontic Evaluation? in Big Spring


1500 Scurry St.
Big Spring TX 79720

(432) 267-1677

Family, Sedation & Laser Dentistry; Orthodontics; Implants

When Does My Child Need an Orthodontic Evaluation?

When Does My Child Need an Orthodontic Evaluation?

Let me start by saying that this question has several answers depending on the child. The most common answer is around age 12, but read on because many kids will benefit if treatment is started earlier.

Let me start first with another question. Who has to wear braces? The answer is no one. Crooked teeth and or misaligned jaws are not terminal. Almost no one can’t eat because of a malocclusion (bad bite) or crooked teeth.

The reasons for treating these issues are cosmetic, social, psychological (self esteem), and financial. The first three are fairly obvious as a nice smile looks good, makes one more socially acceptable and attractive, and reduces one potential cause of a poor self image. The last reason, financial, is not obvious, but people with straight teeth tend to have greater earning potential in their lifetime than those with significantly crooked teeth. It’s not fair, but it is true.

Now, back to age 12, which is the age most kids have lost all their baby teeth. Most of the permanent teeth are in and it’s a great time to get started. In most cases, any age past then is fine (including the adult years), but most kids like to get them off before high school. An average case lasts about 2 years.

So who needs to think about an evaluation sooner? Problems that benefit from early treatment include very crowded teeth, jaws that don’t seem to line up, front teeth that don’t come together, the jaw shifting when biting due to teeth interferences, and a long face especially with snoring or sleep apnea.

Kids with very crowded teeth often benefit from starting orthodontics a year or two early. In very crowded mouths, it’s often necessary to extract 4 permanent premolars to have room to unravel the teeth. If treatment begins before the baby second molars are lost (usually age 10 or 11), we end up with more space to straighten the front teeth. That means perhaps not having to take out those permanent teeth. I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, so you’ll have to trust me on that one.

In patients in which one jaw seems especially small or large relative to the other one, early treatment with dental orthopedic techniques can help reduce the need for surgical intervention (orthognathic surgery) in the teenage years. This treatment often begins in the early elementary years.

Kids whose front teeth don’t come together have an “open bite”. This is usually caused by a continuing thumb sucking habit (into the elementary years) or by a poor swallowing pattern where the tongue comes between the front teeth. Dental appliances are very helpful for treating both of these problems and are usually used during the early elementary years.When the child has to shift his jaw to get his back teeth together the condition is called a “functional side shift”. This is usually caused by very crowded front teeth and should be treated around age 6 or 7. This is important because this shift can even affect how the jawbone grows.

Finally, kids whose faces look long (not sad, actually long) often have an obstructed airway. This is often accompanied by restless sleep, snoring, and sometimes even apnea (interrupted breathing) with restless sleep, bedwetting and attention disorders. Common medical causes are severe allergies or very large tonsils blocking the airway. Sometimes however a constricted palate can be the cause. Orthodontically widening the palate is easy and can make a huge difference for some kids.

That’s it in a very large nutshell. If you suspect these issues make sure you speak to your dentist (many general dentists and pediatric dentists manage such issues) or orthodontist soon.

Dr. David Ward practices comprehensive family dentistry in Big Spring. He is a member of the American and Texas Dental Associations, the Academy of GP Orthodontics, and the American Dental Implant Association and trained with the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry.

Big Spring Dentist | When Does My Child Need an Orthodontic Evaluation?. David Ward is a Big Spring Dentist.