The average age for braces is 12 years old, but did you know the American Academy of Orthodontics recommends seeing an orthodontist by age 7? Given the fact that children are typically 13 years old before all of their permanent teeth arrive, it’s understandable parents want to wait to visit an orthodontist. “Most parents don’t want to come at that early age because they don’t want to be told their child needs braces. And I want them to know that most of the time that’s not going to happen,” says PDOC orthodontist Dr. KC Dyer. “Just because you have a consult, don’t think your child is going to be walking out of the office with braces,” he assures.
In fact, 95% of Dyer’s first consultations with young patients result in no intervention. “We just want to assess their teeth to make sure they are coming in correctly and developing like they should.” Most parents are advised to take a “wait and see” approach. Their child’s growth and development are monitored periodically and if treatment is needed it can happen at the optimal time during predictable stages of growth. “That early consult is really to help make things easier in the long run. We’re more on the conservative side of intervention, but there are certain things that have to be corrected early on,” he cautions. Severely crowded or protruding teeth, crossbites or underbites, improper jaw growth or speech problems are indicators of such issues and addressing them early could make the difference between more extensive treatment later for a much longer period.
Yet, early intervention doesn’t necessarily mean another trip to the orthodontist. “A lot of the time, any action taken is usually by the pediatric dentist, such as an early extraction or maybe an expander to help prevent a future issue from worsening,” says PDOC pediatric dentist, Dr. Chad Eslinger. “I think the advantage of our combined pediatric and orthodontic office versus perhaps general dentistry or orthodontics only is that we work together in real time to decipher those issues.” Patients at PDOC know they can count on a team of doctors for expert care, and a staff that make it much easier for parents by often scheduling same day consults and treatment.
Recently Eslinger’s group referred a young boy whose mother wondered why they needed an ortho consult at all, saying, “his baby teeth look perfect.” And while they appeared to be fine, x-rays revealed that his permanent canine teeth were coming in sideways. “Sometimes at that age we’re looking at the eruption pattern of the teeth on the -x-ray and that is important,” he says. “For instance, we may remove a baby tooth a little early, so the canine comes in the right way on its own, and we prevent having surgery later to attach a bracket to fix the tooth.”
Dr. Dyer believes working together as a team helps assure parents their child’s oral health is in good hands. “Our pediatrics team treats a lot of 7 and 8-year-old kids every day, but they only refer those that really need to be seen. Early intervention is rare, and parents can trust that we always take a conservative approach to what your child needs.”