There is a general belief that children don’t need to see an orthodontist until they have lost all of their baby teeth. Many parents and well-meaning dentists hold this view. This is not always in the best interests of patients for the following reasons.
The last baby tooth to fall out is usually the lower second deciduous (baby) molar. Although it’s a baby tooth, it’s rather large. In fact, it is considerably larger than the tooth that will replace it. The difference in size is called the leeway space. This space is sufficient to eliminate lower front tooth crowding about 65% of the time. The leeway space is a fleeting thing. Once the second deciduous molar is out, the permanent molar behind it moves forward, uses up the space, and the opportunity is lost.
Children who are seen before they lose their second deciduous molars have a good chance of avoiding extractions, as well as more extensive treatment.
Orthodontic treatment in children works best while they are still growing. This is especially important for girls, whose growth often slows down or stops while they still harbor baby teeth. Some children retain their baby teeth until 14 or 15.
Cooperation is an essential part of successful orthodontic treatment. Pre-adolescents are often enthusiastic about braces, are eager to please adults, and they look forward to the experience. Teenagers may have a more nuanced view of braces and with the world in general. They may feel that orthodontics is being done to them, rather than for them.
Three good reasons not to wait. Still, urban legends are hard to eradicate!
You might want to share this information with your friends and neighbors so they can be legend-busters and save the kids and their parents some grief.
Children do best if they are seen by an orthodontist while they still have their baby teeth. Scheduling a first visit to an orthodontist at nine or ten is ideal. Of course, if you or your dentist notice a problem earlier, schedule an appointment for an evaluation. There is no charge for these initial exams. If your child is not ready for treatment, we’ll follow their development and make recommedations.
Arthur Fertman, D.D.S.
Daniela Toro, D.M.D., M.S.D.