Should My Middle Schooler Have an Orthodontic Evaluation?
It’s never too late for your child’s orthodontic evaluation.
Did you know the American Association of Orthodontics recommends parents bring their kids in for an orthodontic evaluation as early as seven years of age? If this comes as a surprise, you’re not alone.
Parents often wait until their child has lost most or all of their baby teeth before thinking about taking them to an orthodontist. Most kids don’t get braces until they reach middle school, so unless your child’s dentist happened to mention the importance of an orthodontic evaluation, it makes perfect sense that parents tend to wait.
The good news is it’s never too late for your middle schooler to have an orthodontic evaluation!
Orthodontic evaluations are a really important part of kids’ preventive dental care. Orthodontic problems are much easier to fix when they’re caught early on, especially severe bite alignment issues. Even if your middle schooler already has all of their adult teeth, their jaw is still maturing. Realigning teeth now will be a breeze compared to waiting until adulthood.
What happens at a middle schooler’s orthodontic evaluation?
A pediatric orthodontic evaluation is a pretty simple process. In most cases, it takes a little longer than a normal routine dental appointment.
A typical orthodontic evaluation will be broken down into two main parts: X-rays with a hygienist or assistant and the actual one-on-one consultation with your kid’s orthodontist.
Orthodontic Evaluations = Lots of X-Rays and Images
Orthodontic evaluations require a lot of X-rays, scans, and photographs. This is because the orthodontist needs multiple, detailed images of what’s going on with your child’s teeth, including under the surface. If the assistant or hygienist taking your child’s X-rays notices some potential issues, they may take more in-depth X-rays of that particular area to get a clear picture of what might be the issue.
Getting the Most From the Orthodontist During the Consultation
Once all of the X-rays have been taken, your child’s orthodontist will review them and have a chat with you both about what he/she sees. The orthodontist will also examine your child’s mouth to look for any potential issues. These could include any signs of tooth damage, untreated tooth decay, and anything else that may need to be addressed.
Make the most out of this evaluation by asking all of your questions, no matter how simple you might think they are. Feel free to encourage your child to ask questions as well! The more you both know about the results of the evaluation, the better. You, your child, and your child’s orthodontist should all be on the same page at the end of the appointment.
Great Questions to Ask the Orthodontist
Here are a few great questions to ask your child’s orthodontist during the evaluation:
- What type of orthodontic treatment would be best for my child?
- How long will my child need to wear braces?
- Is it possible to wait to get braces or should we get them now?
- Are there any risks to braces or other forms of orthodontic care?
- How will braces affect my child’s life, such as sports?
- How will braces change how my child cares for their teeth?
It’s a wonderful idea to have a chat with your middle schooler and write up a list of questions before the evaluation. Sometimes dental appointments can be overloaded with information, making it easy to forget what you were curious about.
Don’t forget, you can always give your child’s orthodontist a call later if you think of a new question.
What is the orthodontist looking for during the evaluation?
Your child’s orthodontist will point out any red flags he/she notices during the evaluation. If you’re curious about what some of these potential red flags are, here’s a quick list.
- Crooked or rotated teeth
- Crowded teeth or unusual gaps between teeth
- Teeth protruding inward or outward
- Improper bite alignment (i.e. over- or underbite)
- Teeth positioning affecting speech (i.e. lisp)
- Missing adult teeth or impacted teeth failing to erupt
In addition to relying on visual exams and X-rays, the orthodontist may also test your child’s bite alignment to check for proper chewing. In some cases, improper bite alignment isn’t quite noticeable until chewing occurs.
The orthodontist will also ask your child questions during the evaluation. They will want to know if your child ever experiences any pain, soreness, or any other unusual symptoms that could be related to their teeth or bite.
What happens after your middle schooler’s orthodontic evaluation?
Most orthodontic evaluations end with some form of treatment being recommended, as “perfect smiles” are incredibly rare. Our orthodontists want your child to have the most beautiful, healthy, and functional smile possible, so braces are often suggested.
When it comes to the discussion of whether braces are a necessity or a luxury for your child, it’s important to weigh the decisions of you and any co-parent, your child, and your orthodontist. In some cases, you may be able to wait a year or two before getting your child braces. This is common for parents who need a little extra time to financially plan for orthodontic treatment.
Another common outcome after an orthodontic evaluation is the orthodontist recommending your child visit their general pediatric dentist first if they have cavities or another problem.
Braces don’t prevent dental care from taking place, but they do make it more difficult. This is why it’s a great idea to get all preventive or restorative treatment taken care of first. Once your child’s oral health is great, then following through with braces is the next step.
Schedule your child’s evaluation at Pediatric Dental Specialists.
Pediatric Dental Specialists focuses solely on providing kids with an awesome dental experience. We offer a complete menu of pediatric dental services, including preventive care, cosmetic dentistry, sedation dentistry, special needs care, and, of course, children’s orthodontics.
When you’re ready to book your child’s evaluation, you can either give your local Pediatric Dental Specialists office a call or use our online appointment request form.