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Children with evident problems or oral habits, such as thumb or finger-sucking, may benefit from an orthodontic evaluation as early as age 5 or 6. Although treatment is unusual at this early age, preventative treatment or monitoring a child’s growth and development may be indicated.

By the age of 7, most children have adult or permanent teeth that have erupted in addition to the remaining baby or primary teeth. By this age, children may experience dental crowding, too much space between teeth, protruding teeth, and extra or missing teeth and sometimes jaw growth problems. Genetics may also play a factor, meaning that orthodontic problems seen in children may have been inherited from their parents.

Malocclusions or “bad bites,” other than those listed above, are acquired. In other words, they develop over time. They can be caused by mouth breathing, dental disease, abnormal swallowing, poor dental hygiene, the early or late loss of baby teeth, accidents or poor nutrition. Trauma and other medical conditions such as birth defects may contribute to orthodontic problems as well. Sometimes an inherited malocclusion is complicated by an acquired problem.

We are trained to spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. The advantage for patients of early detection of orthodontic problems is that some may be easier to correct if they are found and treated early. Waiting until all the permanent teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction more difficult. Our office follows the guidelines of the American Association of Orthodontists in recommending that all children receive an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7. While a child’s teeth may appear straight, problems sometimes exist that can only be detected with a comprehensive orthodontic screening.

For each patient who needs treatment, there is an ideal time to begin in order to achieve the best results. As a certified orthodontist, Dr. El Alam has the expertise to determine when the optimal time is to begin orthodontic treatment. Our goal is to provide each patient with the most appropriate treatment at the most appropriate time.

In some cases, a problem may be found that indicates a need for early or interceptive treatment. Early treatment may prevent more serious problems from developing and may make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. For those patients who have clear indications for early orthodontic intervention, early treatment allows for:

  •      The guidance of jaw growth
  •      Minimizing the risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
  •      Correction of harmful oral habits
  •      Improvement to appearance and self-esteem
  •      Guidance of permanent teeth into a more favorable position
  •      Improvement in the way lips meet

It’s not always easy for parents to tell if their child has an orthodontic problem. Here are some signs or habits that may indicate the need for an orthodontic examination:

  •      Early or late loss of baby teeth
  •      Difficulty in chewing or biting
  •      Mouth breathing
  •      Thumb sucking
  •      Finger sucking
  •      Crowding, misplaced or blocked out teeth
  •      Jaws that shift or make sounds
  •      Biting the cheek or roof of the mouth
  •      Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
  •      Jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face

If any of these problems are noted by parents, regardless of age, we recommend that you arrange for an appointment time so that your child may receive a complimentary orthodontic screening and evaluation. It is not necessary to wait until age seven for an orthodontic check-up.