We all try our best to take care of our little ones’ teeth. We persevere through the power struggle of who will hold the toothbrush. We negotiate with clenched little teeth and pursed little lips. After all of this, I know a lot of moms still question if they are doing enough or if they are doing it right. Many moms wonder if their child’s teeth are coming in correctly or if their child’s bite is developing properly.
When should we first visit the dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child should see a dentist some time between getting their first tooth and turning one year old. While there is typically no treatment required at this age, this visit helps to begin a thorough prevention program. At home, any soft-bristled toothbrush is fine as long as it is small enough to reach the back teeth. The AAPD recommends using a fluoridated toothpaste; a pea-sized amount for those over two years, and just a smear for younger kids.
Some family dentists treat children in their practices. If your general dentist doesn’t treat children, you may consider finding a pediatric dentist. If you’re looking for one, you can search by your zip code on the AAPD website. As long as teeth are healthy, you only need to see your dentist every six months. Your dentist can diagnose abnormalities of dental development and may refer you to an orthodontic specialist if a functional problem forms.
By the age of seven, children should have an orthodontic evaluation. Again, typically there is no need for treatment at this age. This evaluation will allow the orthodontist to monitor growth and development of the bite. However, sometimes things aren’t developing just how we like, and interceptive treatment is recommended. Examples of issues that might require early treatment are cross-bites (refer to photo at left), pacifier or thumb-sucking habits, or teeth that protrude enough out of the lips to be at a greater risk for injury during a fall.
What about pacifiers and thumb-sucking?
A common frustration for parents is breaking a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit. I typically tell the parents of my patients to try and help their children stop by the age of two. This isn’t always easy, and as you well know, with kids you have to choose your battles. I’ll admit my oldest daughter was two and a half before we had the courage to take the pacifier away. And even then, we blamed it on the Easter bunny. Sometimes waiting until the child is a little older and more mature will help the child to understand that the habit can be harmful to them.
Prolonged pacifier or thumb-sucking can affect the development of the upper jaw and the bite. It can cause an anterior open bite (refer to photo at right), protrusion of the front teeth, and constriction of the upper jaw, which may result in a cross-bite If my patients are still having trouble quitting on their own at around age six, I usually discuss a habit appliance with parents. This is a custom-made appliance that sits in the roof of the patient’s mouth and deters them from sucking on a pacifier or finger.
If everything is progressing normally, and interceptive treatment is not required, your child will most likely be placed on a recall schedule to be seen every 6-12 months until most of the adult teeth have erupted. Once most of the adult teeth are in, a consultation is scheduled to discuss the need for orthodontic treatment for each patient.
What should I expect at the visit?
At Evans Orthodontics, we discuss each patient’s individual needs and the type and length of treatment needed to give them a functional bite and a beautiful smile. Our office strives to provide an enjoyable, comfortable experience. Our friendly staff is dedicated to excellence in orthodontic care. We offer the latest in technology, including digital imaging. We treat adults as well as children and offer traditional metal brackets, clear brackets and Invisalign®. All new patient evaluations and recall visits at Evans Orthodontics are complimentary. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions or to get a recommendation for a pediatric dentist. We would love the opportunity to serve you and your family.
About Dr. Leeann Evans
After Katrina, Leeann and her husband Chad moved to Houston, where she completed her residency in Orthodontics. She practiced in Houston for a few years, but once they welcomed their first daughter, the couple decided it was time to move home to New Orleans. Leeann opened her own Orthodontic practice in January 2012. Now the mom of two daughters, she divides her time between play dates and creating beautiful smiles. Evans Orthodontics treats patients of all ages, and offers metal or clear brackets as well as Invisalign®.