Each time your child has an appointment with us for a dental examination, we will also perform an orthodontic evaluation. The orthodontic evaluation allows us to monitor your child’s dental growth and ensure that their baby teeth are coming out when they should, the permanent teeth emerge properly and have enough room to grow, and there are no additional bite-related issues.
We have found that early orthodontic evaluation and treatment of bite and space problems result in a more effective treatment as well as help prevent serious problems later.
We may recommend limited orthodontic treatment in our practice. If more extensive treatment is indicated, we will provide a referral to an orthodontist. In some instances it is appropriate to initiate orthodontic treatment at a young age. In such cases, we will refer children young as seven to one of our orthodontists for an early evaluation.
A baby tooth usually stays in place until a permanent tooth underneath pushes it out and takes its place. Unfortunately, some children lose a baby tooth too soon. For example, a tooth might be knocked out accidentally or removed because of dental disease. When a tooth is lost too early, your pediatric dentist may recommend a space maintainer to prevent future space loss and dental problems.
Baby teeth are important to your child’s present and future dental health. As mentioned earlier, they encourage normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. They save space for the permanent teeth and guide them into position. Remember, some baby teeth are not replaced until a child is 12 to 14 years old. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, the teeth beside it may tilt or drift into the empty space. When adjacent teeth shift into the empty space, they create a lack of space in the jaw for the permanent teeth. Therefore, permanent teeth are crowded and come in crooked. If left untreated, the condition may require extensive orthodontic treatment.
Space maintainers steady the remaining teeth, preventing movement until the permanent tooth takes its natural position in the jaw. It is more affordable – and easier and more effective – to keep teeth in normal positions with a space maintainer than to move them back in place with orthodontic treatment. Space maintainers are made of metal or plastic custom fit to your child’s mouth. They are small and unobtrusive in appearance. Most children easily adjust to them after the first few days.
Pediatric dentists have four rules for space maintainer care.
- Avoid sticky sweets or chewing gum.
- Do not tug or push on the space maintainer with your fingers or tongue.
- Keep it clean with conscientious brushing and flossing.
- Continue your regular dental visits.