Children typically come in for their first dental exam around age seven, when they have lost some of their baby teeth and permanent ones have started coming in. But parents may bring them in earlier because they see there is overcrowding, an overbite or underbite, misalignment, big gaps between teeth, missing ones because of accidents, or are worried about thumb-sucking that is causing teeth to protrude.
An early exam may include a full digital x-ray (which involves little radiation) to reveal the condition of the underlying jawbone and what teeth are about to come in. El Cerrito and Berkeley orthodontist, Dr. Song can assess whether early intervention may be helpful to prevent further complications and damage which might require more extensive and invasive treatment later. She may decide that no orthodontic therapy is appropriate, but the exam will give her and the family an understanding of the probable future for the child’s oral health. She will probably also want to take a mold of the child bite to study.
If baby teeth have fallen out earlier than normal and the permanent ones are coming in imperfectly, Dr. Song may recommend some form of orthodontic treatment. Even baby teeth that are crooked can be gently pushed into their correct positions with children’s braces, while those who had their permanents come in early can be treated.
Braces are generally the gold standard for the process of creating a perfect smile that boosts self-confidence for a child, but they do require an average of two years. They can be made of a clear material, instead of the usual braces. Children will need to be taught the importance of self-discipline not to eat sticky and hard foods that might damage the braces, as well as avoiding sodas and sugary foods that can cause cavities. They will also need guidance in cleaning their teeth and gums daily, to avoid both cavities and periodontal disease developing.
Alternatively, there are now clear plastic aligner trays (like a mouth guard) that are effective for some and can be removed before eating, so there are fewer dietary restrictions. These are replaced periodically with new ones that fit the new bite as it forms.
An orthodontist like Dr. Song has years of specialized training and experience to handle complex cases at all ages, unlike general dentists. Call for an appointment for you little one to have her or his oral health assessed.