Expert Advice: Does my child need an orthodontist?


Our dentist says our seven-year-old should see an orthodontist because “her teeth are too big for her mouth.” Isn’t that normal for a child that age? Is it too early to see an orthodontist?


While common sense would suggest that one should wait until all adult teeth have grown in before worrying about braces, this is not true for many children. As an orthodontist, I routinely see children in my office for the first time at age 12 with bite problems that could have been prevented if I had seen them years earlier. The Canadian Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children should be screened by an orthodontist by age seven. An orthodontist has unique training to catch subtle dental and jaw growth problems in younger children and the emphasis is now on prevention. But just because your family dentist has suggested your child see an orthodontist does not mean that they will require early treatment. In fact, only 10 –25 percent of children ages seven to 10 can benefit from some form of early orthodontic intervention. Even if early treatment is recommended, there is no cause for concern since orthodontics is very well tolerated by children of this age.

Treatment may involve the use of a simple palatal expander, partial braces, retainers or maybe a space maintainer. And remember, early treatment can prevent the need for future extraction of permanent teeth, simplify and shorten the time spent in full braces later on or even possibly prevent the need for braces altogether.


Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February 2015.

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