WHEN TO SEE AN ORTHODONTIST – CHILDREN
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children first see an orthodontist at age seven. This is due to the fact that the first permanent molars (the “6-year” molars) and some of the permanent incisors will have erupted; if not, a developmental issue may be indicated. It is important that the progress of the unerupted permanent teeth between the molars and incisors be evaluated because eruption in this area is sequential (and sometimes complex) and, many times, simple recognition and recommendation by the orthodontist of the strategic removal of a primary (“baby”) tooth can avert significant misalignments of permanent teeth. Although orthodontic treatment is generally not indicated at this age, it is very helpful to assess the development of the dentition and the facial bones in order to determine whether your child would benefit from the interceptive correction of any imbalances before they become more pronounced. Early correction of developmental issues (usually starting around the age of 9) leads to more successful, less invasive treatment once the permanent teeth erupt; in some cases, there is, as a result, no need for comprehensive treatment. Given that most orthodontists offer complimentary consultations and many developmental issues are subtle and not visible to the naked eye, it is highly recommended that all children are screened by an orthodontist.
WHEN TO SEE AN ORTHODONTIST – ADULTS
For adults, it is recommended that an orthodontist is seen when there is a question regarding the alignment of teeth or the stability of occlusion (bite). The breaking of teeth when chewing, for example, may indicate that orthodontic treatment is warranted. A consultation with a qualified orthodontist is an opportunity to have your questions answered and gain a comprehensive understanding of your tooth alignment relative to your bite, smile, gums, bones, and face (presently and as you age in the future). Moreover, if treatment is indicated, you will be able to compare the available options and choose that which is most ideal.