When thinking about getting orthodontic treatment, middle school and adolescence is probably what comes to mind. Many parents are under the assumption that they need to wait until their child has lost all of their baby teeth before seeing an orthodontist. However, parents should consider scheduling an appointment for their child much earlier than that. Orthodontists can spot subtle problems with jaw growth or teeth by age 7—even though baby teeth may still be present.

By age 7, enough permanent teeth have arrived for an orthodontist to evaluate the “bite” – the manner in which teeth and jaws meet and work, and how that relationship affects a child’s ability to bite, chew and speak effectively.  Orthodontists can determine what, if anything, is awry.

If something does need orthodontic attention, the problem can be addressed early and can potentially negate serious issues later down the road. What parent doesn’t want to prevent lengthy and costly orthodontic treatment, if possible? Actions can also be taken to help the transition of “baby” teeth to permanent teeth. There may be underlying problems with the way adult teeth are coming in—with the relationship of the upper and lower jaw, with tooth crowding, or problems that may be occurring due to thumb sucking or other habits. Orthodontists can pinpoint these problems, even if they are subtle, and start correcting any problems to avoid potential problems for future adult teeth.

Your child may already be showing signs that orthodontic treatment is in order. If your child is showing any of the following signs, look into scheduling an orthodontic exam:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth
  • Difficulty in chewing or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Thumb sucking
  • Crowding, misplaced or blocked-out teeth
  • Jaws that shift or make sounds
  • Speech difficulties
  • Biting the cheek or the roof of the mouth
  • Teeth that meet abnormally, or don’t meet at all
  • Facial imbalance
  • Jaws that are too far forward or back
  • Grinding or clenching of the teeth