Why should young children have an orthodontic check up by age 7?
My nephew was 7 when I noticed his lower jaw protruding too far forward, creating a slight underbite of his front teeth. His parents thought he looked cute and manly, but to my professional eye it looked like his upper jaw was not growing as fast as his lower jaw. I took x-rays that confirmed my suspicions. We started with a palatal expander and a night brace to help the upper jaw align in a more forward position. The underbite was corrected in 12 months. He was great at wearing a retainer to sleep to maintain the expansion.
That early treatment helped create space for all his adult teeth and align the jaws in a harmonious and symmetrical pattern. When the rest of his adult teeth erupted, it only took a little over a year to align into a beautiful, long lasting smile.
What’s the lesson you’d like to pass on to parents?
My nephew’s treatment is a perfect example of why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends an orthodontic check up by age 7. You might think this is young, but some orthodontic problems are best treated when your little one’s teeth are still growing. For most kids, this is an observational period where we simply keep an eye on their teeth and jaws. For those who do need treatment, we can achieve the most stable, dramatic results with the least amount of time and expense.
What about parents? Should they start treatment when their kids do?
One in four orthodontic patients are adults and their reason for treatments vary. Some decide it makes sense for them to get treatment at the same time as their children. From a time perspective, it makes sense – they’re coming to the office for their kids, so they’re already here. We have a lot of parents who are so pleased with their kid’s results that they decide it’s their turn when the kids are finished with treatment. For other parents, it’s an upcoming event, like their child’s graduation or wedding. No matter when they start their orthodontic journey, almost all parents say, “I wish I had done this years ago!” All are happy to have beautiful smiles.
Orthodontics offers an anti-aging benefit too!
Many parents choose orthodontic treatment to give themselves a wider, fuller smile without undergoing plastic surgery or getting injections. My training is not just about aligning teeth, but the aesthetic of the face and how the teeth, jaw, lips, and facial bones all complement each other. When treatment is done, profiles are improved, small smiles are wider, and lips look fuller. Achieving facial symmetry is part of the benefits of orthodontic treatment.
Teeth age also, and how teeth age depends on whether or not they are straight. A bad bite can create an uneven wear pattern on teeth, leading to gum disease and other problems. If a person has a bad bite or is missing teeth, we can give them a healthy and beautiful smile.
Are there health benefits to orthodontic treatment?
That’s an easy YES. Everyone looks better with a great smile, but there are other benefits to straight teeth. Clinical research has established a clear connection between gum disease and cardiovascular health. Brushing and flossing to prevent plaque and tartar buildup is way more effective when teeth are straight and lessens the chance for dental plaque and tartar to accumulate in little pockets that can’t be reached.
Do you have any new professional achievements to share with us?
I recently completed and passed my Board Certification from the American Board of Orthodontics. It’s not easy – in addition to a rigorous written exam, you have to present difficult clinical cases and explain your treatment and the results. It takes seven years to get Board Certified the first time, then you have to repeat the testing every ten years. Not all orthodontists pursue board certification, but it shows how dedicated I am to my patients.