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Lucky Number 7

One of the most commonly asked questions Dr. Gross and I get as orthodontists is “What is the best age to take my child to the orthodontist?”.

While most children are adolescents by the time they get braces, both the Canadian Association of Orthodontists (CAO) and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommend the first evaluation at or around the age of 7.

Why the early age recommendation if the child isn’t going to get braces until the late “tween” or early teenage years? The reason, (and the rationale behind the CAO and AAO recommendations), is that most orthodontic problems begin to manifest themselves early in life, especially in the initial stages of transfer from the primary (baby) teeth to the permanent (adult) teeth. This stage of oral development is called the “mixed dentition”. Intervention at this stage frequently reduces the severity of the problem. Reducing the severity leads to less comprehensive treatment time in the future and very often improved treatment outcomes. While some braces may still be required to finish the job at a later age, the problem will be easier to manage, shorter in duration, cost, and effort.

This type of orthodontic treatment is known as Early, Interceptive or Phased treatment. As we discussed in past articles oral habits are an example of early treatment that if undertaken significantly reduces the treatment needs in a second or comprehensive phases. Sometimes early treatment even precludes the need for future treatment completely or moves it to an “elective” category where benefits can be had but are not critical to the overall health and function of the teeth and mouth.

So, the next time you are at your family or pediatric dentist with your child, ask about an age 7, early evaluation by a certified orthodontist. Most initial orthodontic evaluations cost less than one hundred dollars. And, should early treatment be indicated, could save you many times that much in the future. Also, who wouldn’t want to make those teenage years a little easier? But, that’s another story….


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