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Kids Ages 7-8: Get an Orthodontic Evaluation!

Today I’m writing about early evaluations for kids. I've lectured to the Pediatric and Orthodontic Dental Residents at the University of Maryland on this exact topic for years so it’s something I’m quite passionate about. All children should be evaluated by an orthodontist around the age of 7-8 years old. I’m checking to make sure that all of the adult teeth are there, that there are no eruption problems, and that the jaws are developing normally. Please schedule a FREE consultation for your child to see me.

Not enough space for adult teeth and eruption problems: The most common issue I see is overcrowding of the adult teeth. About 20-30 years ago, the philosophy was to wait until all of the adult teeth erupt, which is usually around age 12, and then start with orthodontic treatment. The problem with this philosophy is that many times kids do not have space for all of the adult teeth and a lot of people in the past had to have at least 4 adult teeth extracted. The other problem with waiting is that teeth can cause a lot of issues if there is not enough space for them to come into the mouth, which means very lengthy treatment and other procedures needed as teens. My personal philosophy is to create space for teeth and prevent problems when kids are younger, referred to as “Phase I” of orthodontic treatment. Usually what is required is an expander with a combination of a few mini braces. The expander is placed on the upper jaw and the ideal time to create space for teeth is when the upper jaw is flexible around the ages of 7-8 years old. The upper canines are very large and develop high up, on either side of the nose. The upper canines are the teeth most likely to become impacted (which means stuck up in the jaw) or cause root resorption on the adjacent teeth (which means eating away the roots of the lateral incisors) as they try to come into the mouth without enough space. The upper jaw has a “soft spot”, which is the midpalatal suture, and can easily be expanded to create space ages 7-8.

Jaw development: I’m screening for crossbites or problems with the jaw development, especially as it relates to breathing. There are many missed or misdiagnosed sleep disordered breathing issues in kids at ages 7-8. There are certain jaw patterns, like a hyperdivergent facial pattern, that are apparent at this age, which correlate with breathing problems. A constricted or narrow upper jaw is one of them. By using an expander to expand the jaw we can hopefully improve some breathing issues.

Speech development: I’m also screening to make sure that the jaws and teeth are erupting properly so that children can articulate sounds. If a child had a long-standing habit of pacifier use or sucking on fingers, this will create an open bite. This means that the upper jaw is narrow and the front teeth don’t come down properly over the lower teeth to allow the child to seal their tongue and annunciate properly. The treatment is usually early braces or expander. Missing teeth: I cannot tell you how many times I see a teenager that doesn’t know they are missing an adult tooth. Missing permanent teeth have a strong genetic link (sometimes it skips a generation) but I’ve seen many cases where it’s just a random occurrence. With missing teeth, it’s important to have a plan when kids are younger. My philosophy is to try to use the other teeth to substitute for the missing tooth and keep the natural dentition, if possible. Sometimes, implants are needed to replace missing adult teeth. Implants are a lengthy dental process, expensive, and are placed when kids are done with growth, which is about age 18-22 years old. Implants present esthetic challenges since we now need to come up with a solution for maintaining a spaceholder for a missing tooth. When I see kids at age 7-8 years old, we can discuss options and possibly plan for alternatives: sometimes this means preserving some of the other baby teeth or sometimes this means taking out the baby tooth to allow an adult tooth to erupt into a better location.

All of these topics are hours of lectures but it’s just a brief intro! Please schedule a complimentary consultation for your child to see me this summer! Call us today: 703-774-3070. It’s FREE and I just assess to make sure everything is coming in okay! Many times no treatment is needed but it’s much harder and longer to do treatment in the future if I can help prevent issues.


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