Will My Child Need Braces?

A dentist can help determine if a child will need orthodontic treatment. When their mouth is ready, the dentist will refer the family to an orthodontist for treatment which may include braces or a preliminary palatal expander.

At what age or point during a child’s routine dental care will the dentist start looking for signs that the child may need braces, and what are some warning signs?

Dr. John Vitale: Well, generally around age seven is when the dentist starts looking at a child for orthodontic problems, and some of the problems they look for are of the growth of the jaws, whether they’re growing at the same pace, whether they look symmetrical, whether they are in alignment with the teeth as they come in. And generally, also the tooth positions when they come in.

What are the different reasons children might need braces besides to straighten the teeth?

Dr. John Vitale: Well, the biggest reason obviously is malocclusions. When a child bites, they don’t bite properly. There’s a certain alignment to your teeth, top and bottom, and when these teeth are out of alignment, the orthodontist and general practitioners have a way of classifying them. Like a class one, a class two, a class three. And for simplicity’s sake, these are just different types of occlusions that may not be optimal.

Will the dentist always refer the child to an orthodontist, or can some work be done by a dentist?

Dr. John Vitale: Generally, most children get referred to orthodontists. However, there are some dentists who like doing some minor tooth moving like uprighting a molar or something to allow for some space so another tooth can come in. But for the most part, the orthodontist who is trained after dental school in a specialty is the person to refer your child to.

Do you have to wait for all the adult teeth to come in before kids can get braces?

Dr. John Vitale: No, not at all. Depending on the severity of the case. Some dentists tend to do what we call interceptive orthodontia, which is an early intervention to help in later years when the formal braces put on to make it a little bit easier for the orthodontist if we do some preparatory work beforehand.

What are some other forms of orthodontic treatments children might need besides braces?

Dr. John Vitale: Palatal expanders for instance, they would help expand the upper jaws a little bit if you have a high vault and they start to come in looking a little more narrow. Sometimes a child’s posterior teeth, their back teeth don’t come in as quickly as you want, so you make appliances that would allow them to come into proper space, and those are the things that we do beforehand.

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