by Dr. Kristie Dragstrem
Petty & Dragstrem Orthodontics.

Do you think your child may benefit from orthodontic treatment? When you have some concerns about your child’s teeth, you should never hesitate to bring your child for an evaluation. Sometimes, however, the bite issues are less obvious. Knowing when to take your child for an orthodontic evaluation can provide the opportunity for the best options for correction.

Chronological age is not a factor when deciding when the patient is ready for treatment as there is wide range of “normal” eruption times for adult teeth. Taking advantage of predictable periods of a patient’s growth and timing treatment for their personal needs is the ideal path to excellent results.

Does this mean if you are done growing you are not a candidate for bite correction? No! Healthy teeth can be moved at any age however early treatment may lessen the duration, severity, or complexity of treatment needed if it was delayed until later. Regardless of age, straight teeth and corrected bites not only look better but function
better too.

Early Age Visits

Most parents do not realize that they can bring their children to visit an orthodontist when they are as young as seven years old. I often hear that parents wait until their child has lost all of the their baby teeth to bring them in for an evaluation. In reality, age seven, when children still have a mix of baby and adult teeth, is the most ideal age for the first evaluation. Very few patients actually need intervention at this early age but by age seven the adult molars are in and the bite can be assessed for possible growth problems. Also, problems with the way the adult teeth are forming or growing in can be detected.

Signs It May be Time To See The Orthodontist

– Crooked teeth
You may have noticed your child’s teeth are shifting as the adult teeth replace baby teeth. Most adult teeth are larger than the baby teeth they replace so it is no surprise that often overlapping occurs when baby teeth are lost. Crooked teeth are more difficult to keep clean than straight teeth thus more at risk for cavities and gum disease. Occasionally the lack of space is so severe that adult teeth are blocked from coming into the mouth at all.
– Underbite
An underbite or cross bite is when the lower teeth are in front of the upper teeth. This often leads to gum problems and wearing down the tooth edges. This is usually the result of a growth problem.
– Overbite
Upper teeth that significantly overlap the bottom teeth are in a deep overbite. Overbites can sometimes be uncomfortable for the gum tissue of the palate.
– Openbite
Teeth that don’t meet together can make it difficult to chew and may cause speech problems.
– Crossbite
Normally the upper teeth overlap with the bottom teeth. If your child has lower teeth that are wider than the top then there is likely a cross bite present. This too is usually a growth problem and can encourage asymmetric growth if left uncorrected.
– Early or late loss of baby teeth
When a baby tooth is lost too early perhaps because of a large cavity, the spacing for the replacing adult tooth may close. When a baby tooth is lost too late, it may indicate a problem with the erupting adult tooth or even cause a problem with the eruption of the adult tooth.
– Protruding Front Teeth
Teeth that stick out too far in the front are at risk for trauma as well as potentially causing the lower lip to trap behind them pushing them out even further.
– Habits present such as finger or thumb sucking or mouth breathing
All oral habits can affect the growth of the jaws and face even. Treatment aimed at eliminating the habit can favorably affect growth in the future.

Orthodontic Evaluation

Whether your child has crooked teeth, overlapping teeth, or even an crossbite/underbite/overbite, treatment options are available. As a mom of two daughters, I always put myself in a parents position and recommend what I would do for my own children. Sometimes the best course of action is to start early intervention but sometimes it is best to wait or do nothing at all! It can be difficult deciding what is best for your child but orthodontists are specialized in the growth and development of the teeth and bite and are best equipped to help you make that decision. We have the privilege of creating bright smiling futures everyday!

Petty & Dragstrem Orthodontics is a member of the La Grange Business Association with an office located at 5455 Wolf Road in Western Springs.