Are baby teeth predictors of permanent teeth?

Baby TeethIf your child’s baby teeth are perfectly straight and free of any problems, such as overbites or underbites, you may be assuming that you will have no need for an orthodontist.  Conversely, if your child’s baby teeth are crowded, crooked, widely spaced, or otherwise indicate an imminent need for orthodontic care, you may be planning an initial visit to the orthodontist.

The reality is this: there is a lot more to the story than what you can discern by looking at your child’s baby teeth.  That is why the American Association of Orthodontists urges parents to take children for a visit “with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7.”  Why?  There might be problems or potential problems that are not immediately apparent.  “While your child’s teeth may appear to be straight, there could be a problem that only an orthodontist can detect.  Orthodontists can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present.”

In addition, certain situations or conditions should raise red flags.  For example, if your child is very early or very late in losing baby teeth, that can be indicative of a potential problem.  Similarly, if your child has a hard time chewing or biting, you should make your dentist and the orthodontist aware of that situation.  Other red flags include the following: “mouth breathing, jaws that shift or make sounds, speech difficulties, biting the cheek or the roof of the mouth, facial imbalance, and grinding or clenching of the teeth.”  It may be that the problem or issue is not orthodontic in nature; however, it is always wise to investigate.  Remember, too, that no one is more familiar with your child than you are.  If your instinct is that something is wrong, do not wait; schedule an orthodontic visit immediately.

Many parents wait to schedule that first orthodontic appointment, assuming that they have to wait until all of the child’s baby teeth are gone.  However, with two-phase treatment, it is possible for early treatment to begin while many baby teeth are still in place. “A first phase of treatment is done while the child still has many or most of their primary or ‘baby’ teeth. A second phase takes place when the child has most or all of their permanent teeth. Braces may or may not be used during a first phase of treatment. Other appliances (the name used for braces and other devices for orthodontic correction) may be used.”

In fact, the first phase of treatment can stop a problem in its tracks; this is known as preventive treatment.  It can reduce the severity of the problem, which is known as interceptive treatment.  It can also “guide the growth of the jaw bones that support the teeth,” which is referred to as growth modification.  “Most patients will require a second phase of treatment, often with traditional braces, to complete the tooth and jaw alignment that was started during the first phase of treatment.”  However, without the first phase, the problems may become worse, and more difficult to treat, over time.

If you have questions about your child’s teeth, we encourage you to contact Owl Orthodontics and schedule a free consultation.  Dr Wright and his staff can best assess the appropriate treatment options – if necessary.