Why should children begin to see an orthodontist at age 7?

By Frank McGeorge, MD - Medical Expert

DETROIT - Getting braces used to be a teenage rite of passage, and plenty of teens still need braces, but the American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children see an orthodontist starting at age 7.

Dr. Christian Groth is an orthodontist with TDR Orthodontics in Birmingham, and he says the earlier visits are important.

"There are too many people that are coming in too late -- nine, 10, 11, 12 years old.  If we saw these children a little bit earlier that's going to make life so much easier for the subset of people who actually need it." Groth said.

Orthodontists can more accurately diagnose problems that can be best managed before a child's jaw and other anatomy has reached their permanent stage.

"One of the toughest things to do is to explain to a parent that there's nothing I can do at age 12 or 13 for a specific problem, other than extraction therapy or surgical intervention, but it could have potentially been avoided if we had seen that patient three years earlier." Groth said.

According to Groth, only about 20 percent of kids who are evaluated need early treatment. But the benefit of early treatment in those kids is significant.

"You're taking a case where you might take teeth out and no longer have to take teeth out." Groth said.

In their orthodontic practice and others, there is no charge for the earlier exam, and if everything is normal, they will see your child on what they call a growth guidance program.

According to Groth, "They can come to our office every six months and as long as we're not doing anything, there's never a charge."

There are early signs that your child should be evaluated by an orthodontist. Crowding or unusually wide spacing of the teeth is the most common indicator. Snoring and mouth breathing can be an indication that the jaw is not settling in the proper place and can benefit from orthodontics.

Bite problems might be harder to spot, but an overbite, where the upper teeth are too far forward, or an underbite, where the upper teeth come down behind the lower teeth, might be more easily spotted.

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